Military and State Department pet exceptions

We’re proud to offer active duty U.S. military personnel on Permanent Change of Station (PCS), State Department Foreign Service Personnel (FSP) and their spouses certain benefits for transporting their pet dogs and cats while traveling on assignment to and from international destinations.

Qualifying pets that meet all of our requirements, including the weight limit, will receive specialized handling through United PetSafe®, and we’ll give them a tag during check-in. With this process, you won’t need a third-party IPATA shipping agent or customs broker to clear your pet in customs, which helps you save on additional fees. We also allow you to check your pet in at an airport check-in or QuickPak® counter instead of cargo facilities so it’s more convenient for your trip.

The military and State Department pet exception benefits don’t apply to military personnel who are on leave or traveling for leisure.

This pet travel policy only applies to travel segments and flights operated by United and United Express®. If you’re traveling with your pet on codeshare flights, or flights that are marketed by United but operated by another airline, you won’t be able to use this exception. Your pet also won’t be transferred automatically between airlines, so check our Connecting flights section below to learn more.  

Advance reservations are required, and the PetSafe program rates apply. Please visit our PetSafe® page to learn more about our pet travel policies and requirements. You can also watch this video for important pre-flight tips from American Humane to prepare your pet for a safe and comfortable trip.

If you have any questions, you can reach out to the PetSafe desk at 1-800-575-3335 or 1-832-235-1541

  • You’ll need to make sure your destination accepts pets traveling as checked baggage. Destinations that don’t accept pets traveling as checked baggage and require a standard PetSafe reservation include, but are not limited to:

    • Australia – Melbourne and Sydney
    • Japan – Fukuoka and Nagoya
      • Pets are allowed to travel as checked baggage to or from Haneda, Narita and Osaka, but they can’t travel between or through locations within Japan.
    • Mexico – Guadalajara
    • New Zealand – Auckland
    • United Kingdom – Edinburgh, Glasgow, London Heathrow and Manchester

    You should check with the consulate of your international destination to see if the country accepts pets traveling under this exception. You can find more information about important requirements on the APHIS Pet Travel page.

    • Your origin or destination of travel must be outside of the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
    • Your destination must accept pets traveling as checked baggage.
    • You must be on the same flight as your pet during travel.
    • Only household dogs and cats are accepted.
    • The combined weight of your pet and its crate must be 99.9 pounds (45.3 kg) or less.
    • You will need to meet all PetSafe policies and pre-travel document requirements
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires all dogs entering the United States to be immunized against rabies. You’ll need to provide proof of vaccination before traveling. Learn more about our rabies policies on our Before you book page.
    • Your pet must be brought to the check-in counter at least two hours before departure. Visit our At the airport page page to find the right place to drop off your pet.
    • When you arrive at your destination, you’ll pick up your pet at the Federal Inspection Service or Customs area, or the passenger baggage service office.

    Our military customers must be on PCS and have orders that clearly indicate your assignment to or from an international location. We’ll need to verify your orders when you make your reservation, and you’ll also need to present a copy of your orders and a military ID at check-in. Foreign Service Personnel need to carry a diplomatic passport or State Department ID and present their overseas assignment documents at check-in.

    Civilian employees in the Department of Defense aren’t eligible for these pet exceptions.

  • If your itinerary includes connecting flights on another airline or United codeshare flights:

    • You’ll need to make pet travel and drop-off arrangements directly with the other airline. Keep in mind that they may have different policies and procedures for pet travel. You’ll also need to pay the United pet travel fees and pay the other airline directly for any additional pet travel fees.
    • You have to pick up your pet as soon as your United flight arrives if you’re connecting from a United flight to a flight on another airline.
    • If your first flight isn’t operated by United, you’ll need to drop off your pet directly with the airline operating the flight. When you arrive, you’ll pick up your pet from that airline, then drop them off with United for your next flight.
    • Please make sure to contact the other airline to make sure you have enough time to make the connections with your pet.
  • Stopover travel isn’t allowed under our military pet exception policy. If your travel plans include a stopover before or after your travel overseas, your pet need to travel on a standard PetSafe reservation and can’t travel under the military pet exception policy for the domestic segments of your trip.

    Pets traveling domestically with a planned stopover need to be checked in at the designated PetSafe location at the airport. In many cities, pet drop-off and pickup locations are at United Cargo offices and not in the main terminals. All pets traveling on domestic flights that aren’t immediately connecting to an international flight on the same day will need to travel on a standard PetSafe reservation and can’t travel under the military pet exception policy