Traveling by air with a pet can be a cause of stress, especially if you don’t know what kind of treatment will be offered to your pet before and during the journey. You might be wondering which airlines are extra careful and which ones a bit less so. A new and detailed study by Veterinarians.org has analyzed consumer report data from the United States Department of Transportation from 2015 to 2020 and produced a list raking which airlines could be a good choice next time you plan to travel with you pet.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that each airline submit a monthly report on the death, loss, or injury of an animal during air transportation. This information is made publicly available through the DOT’s Consumer Report Archive, which extends as far back as two decades.
1. Total Number of Pets Transported by Airlines
The number of companion animals transported on airlines has steadily decreased over the period between January 2015 and December 2020.
In 2015, over half a million animals flew on U.S. Airlines. By the end of 2019, that number had decreased by 25%, with only 404,556 animals flying that year. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, that number dropped another 24% in 2020, with only 311,149 animals boarding flights.
2. Carriers with the Highest Number of Pet Transports
Among the numerous pet-friendly airlines in the U.S., the Special Reports Team also took a look at which carriers have seen the highest number of pet transports.
In 2020, the airlines that transported the most pets were Alaska Airlines (107,042), American Airlines (80,817), Horizon Air (38,813), Delta Airlines (18,934), and Skywest Airlines (16,805). The number of pets transported by these five airlines alone accounted for 84% of the total number of transported pets in 2020.
Alaska Airlines also had the highest number of pet transports in 2019 (149,303 — almost 100,000 more than its closest competitor). In fact, Alaska Airlines has consistently transported the most pets than any other airline since 2015, the only exception being the year 2017, when United Airlines transported 17% more animals.
American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Skywest Airlines have continuously appeared in the Top 5 along with Alaska Airlines for the highest number of pet transports since 2015. However, 2020 saw carriers like Horizon Air (the carrier with the third highest number of pet transports that year) and Envoy Air come up on top of industry giant United Airlines.
3. Pet Friendly Airlines with the Highest Incident Rates
An incident, according to the DOT’s Consumer Report Archive, encompasses the death, injury, or loss of a pet. Between January 2015 and December 2020, there were 197 incidents reported by airlines to the DOT out of over 2.7 million animals transported over this period.
When it comes to each individual airline’s incident rate, The DOT calculates this percentage based on the number of incidents per 10,000 animals transported.
In 2020, the airlines with the Top 3 highest incident rates were:
- Hawaiian Airlines: 2.15 Incident Rate (Total Animals Transported: 9,302)
- Delta Airlines: 1.06 Incident Rate (Total Animals Transported: 18,934)
- United Airlines: 0.99 Incident Rate (Total Animals Transported: 10,152)
4. Highest Number of Incidents Per Incident Type
Between January 2015 and December 2020, Delta Airline, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines transported a combined total of over 1.9 million animals.
All of these airlines rank in at least one of the Top 3 lists for highest number of incidents by incident type shown below. Two airlines (Delta Airline and American Airlines) appear in all three lists.
5. Carriers with the Highest Number of Pet Deaths:
Between January 2015 and December 2020, there were a total of 112 pet deaths reported by airlines to the DOT. During this period, the airlines with the highest number of reported deaths were:
- United Airlines: 45
- American Airlines: 16
- Delta Airlines: 27
6. Carriers with the Highest Number of Pet Injuries:
Between January 2015 and December 2020, there were a total number of 81 pet injuries reported by airlines to the DOT. During this period, the airlines with the highest number of reported injuries were:
- United Airlines: 42
- Delta Airlines: 14
- American Airlines: 11
7. Carriers with the Highest Number of Lost Pets:
Between January 2015 and December 2020, there were a total of 4 lost pets reported by airlines to the DOT. During this period, the airlines with the highest number of reported losses were:
- Delta Airlines: 2
- American Airlines: 1
- Alaska Airlines: 1