More and more pet owners in the U.S. are choosing to travel with their pets, and while the Travel Industry Association of America (TIAA) estimates that only 6% are doing so by plane, the numbers are on the rise. And airlines are stepping up their game offering everything from frequent flyer programs for furry friends to “pet-only” airlines. Here are some of the highlights:

Frequent Flyer Programs
Midwest Airlines is the only airline offering pets free trips through their Premier Pet Program. For every six paid one-way flights, pets earn a free round-trip ticket. The cost to fly your pet is $300 round trip below the cabin and $250 for in-cabin travel.

Pets flying on Continental Airlines—and whose human parents are members of their PetPass program—can earn its owner one mile for every dollar spent. However, the program is only applicable to pets traveling below the cabin. And the cost depends on the size and weight of the carrier. For example, a dog and its carrier weighing up to 70 lbs. will set you back $498 for a round-trip flight.

Jet Blue’s JetPaws program accepts small dogs and cats in the passenger cabin on both domestic and international flights (with the exception of Jamaica) for a fee of $200 round trip. Pet passengers earn two points for very flight taken that are added to their owner’s TrueBlue frequent flyer account.

“Guaranteed on Board”
American, Southwest, AirTran, Continental, Delta and Northwest now participate in a program introduced by Sherpa Pet Group, makers of the first soft-sided carrier to be endorsed by major airlines, called “Guaranteed on Board.” This free program outlines all the steps a pet owner must take prior to travel to ensure their pet and its carrier are compliant with the airline rules and regulations. If for whatever reason the pet is denied boarding due to its carrier, Sherpa Pet Group will refund the cost of the owner’s airline ticket and your pet’s travel fee—guaranteed!

Pet Airways
A “pet-only” airline launched in July 2009, Pet Airways flies its “pawsengers” in secure carriers in passenger cabins whose seats and overhead bins have been removed. Pets are attended by a veterinary technician, checking all cats and dogs on board every 15 minutes.

American Airlines Ranked #1
After a careful analysis of all airlines, Bark Buckle Up—an organization promoting pet safety during travel—selected American Airlines as the winner of their 2009 “Pet Safe Choice Award.” Evaluation factors included how many flights arrived safely, safety rules, and the awareness and reactions of employees regarding their precious cargo.

While many airlines are introducing more programs that will enhance your pet’s travel experience, it’s important to always check with your veterinarian prior to traveling with your pet. When it comes to our furry friends, remember, it’s always safety first!

Guest blogger Hope Schultz travels with her pet and is president and COO of