Military and State Department pet exceptions

On June 18, 2018, United implemented several new policies and customer requirements for pet air transportation to improve the safety of the travel experience following a comprehensive review of our PetSafe® program in partnership with American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization. 

Throughout the remainder of the year, United and American Humane will continue to make enhancements as needed to further improve the safety and care of animal transportation. Please watch this video for important pre-flight tips from American Humane to prepare your pet to travel safely and comfortably.

Active duty U.S. military personnel on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) and their spouses, along with State Department Foreign Service Personnel (FSP) and their spouses are allowed certain benefits for transporting their pet dogs and cats when traveling on assignment to and from international destinations. The military and State Department exception benefits do not apply to military personnel who are on leave or traveling for leisure.

Qualifying pets still receive the specialized handling provided by United’s PetSafe® program but are issued a tag during check-in that allows them to travel under this policy. With this process, a third-party shipping agent or customs broker is not required to clear the pet in customs, which saves on additional fees. Also, pets do not need to be dropped off with the cargo facility and can, more conveniently, be presented at an airport check-in or QuickPak® counter.

Please note that this policy only applies to travel segments and flights operated by United and United Express®. Travel on codeshare flights, or flights that are marketed by United but operated by another carrier, is not allowed. Advance reservations are required, and the PetSafe program rates apply.

If you have questions, please contact the PetSafe program desk at 1-800-575-3335 or 1-832-235-1541.


  • Origin or destination of travel must be outside of the 50 United States and Puerto Rico.
  • Your destination must accept pets traveling as checked baggage. Destinations that do not accept pets traveling as checked baggage and require a standard PetSafe program reservation include, but are not limited to:
    • Guam (pets are not accepted as checked baggage on flights between Guam and Honolulu, but are accepted on flights to/from other locations)
    • Hawaii
    • Japan (pets traveling as checked baggage are only allowed to travel to/from Narita, Osaka and Fukuoka)
    • New Zealand
    • United Kingdom destinations (Edinburgh, Glasgow, London Heathrow and Manchester)

You should check with the consulate of the country of your destination to see if it accepts pets traveling under this exception. Additional details about important requirements can also be viewed on the APHIS Pet Travel page.

  • The combined weight of the pet and its crate must be 99.9 pounds (45.3 kg) or less.
  • All customers must be on the same flight as their pets during travel.
  • Only domesticated dogs and cats are accepted.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires all dogs entering the United States to be immunized against rabies, and proof of vaccination is required before air travel begins.
  • All pets must be presented at the check-in counter at least two hours prior to departure. View the At the airport on travel day page to find the right place to drop off your pet.
  • Upon arrival at the final destination, all pets should be picked up at the Federal Inspection Service or Customs area, or the passenger baggage service office.

Validating eligibility

  • Military customers must be on PCS and have orders that clearly indicate assignment to or from an international location.
    • Orders must be verified at the time of reservation and a copy must be presented to the airport agent at check-in.
    • Military personnel must carry military identification.
  • FSP must carry a diplomatic passport or State Department identification and present documentation to the agent at check-in that states the overseas assignment.
  • Civilian employees in the Department of Defense are not eligible for this exception.

Connecting flights

Travel on other airlines is not allowed for the military exception policy. If the flight itinerary includes connecting travel on another airline, including United codeshare flights:

  • Pet travel arrangements and drop-off must be made directly with the other airline, which may have different policies and procedures for pet travel. Additional pet travel fees must be paid directly to the other airline in addition to the United pet travel fees.
  • When connecting from a United flight to a flight on another airline or code-share partner, you must pick up the pet immediately after the United flight arrival.
  • When the origin flight is not operated by United, you must drop off your pet directly with the airline operating the flight, collect your pet from that airline upon arrival and drop them off with United.
  • Please make sure to directly contact the other airline to ensure that you have enough time to make the necessary connections for your pet.

Stopover travel

  • Stopover travel is not allowed for the military exception policy.
  • If your travel plans include a stopover prior to or following the overseas travel, pets are required to travel on a standard PetSafe program reservation and are not allowed to travel under the military pet exception policy for the domestic portion of travel.
  • Pets traveling domestically, due to a planned stopover, will need to be checked in at the designated PetSafe program location at the airport.
    • In many locations, pet drop-off and pickup is at United Cargo and not at the passenger terminal.
    • All pets traveling on domestic flights not immediately connecting on the same day to international flight segments will require a standard PetSafe reservation and cannot travel under the military pet exception policy