I recently got into an offsite discussion about flying with pets in the cabin and what would happen in an emergency on board. I brought up the fact that United Airlines' pet policy states, "In the event of an emergency, oxygen service will not be available for pets." Southwest has a similar phrase in their pet policy, though I couldn't find anything similar in American Airlines' or Delta's pet policies.

Beyond oxygen service, I was arguing that if an evacuation took place, I wasn't aware of any procedures for getting a carryon pet evacuated safely. I said that the human lives of the other passengers on board would take precedence over a pet. To my knowledge, pets in carriers are essentially treated as a carryon bags in the cabin. I also hypothesized that letting a pet out during an emergency could be extremely dangerous and would likely invoke the ire of the crew, if not get you into legal trouble.

TL/DR: The discussion left me wondering are there actually any procedures for getting carryon pets out of the cabin in an emergency? This is mostly directed at pets that would be in a small kennel and stowed for the duration of the flight under the seat in front of you as a personal item. Are they considered carryon luggage, which should then remain stowed (as awful as that sounds), or treated like infants? Have there been instances of serious accidents where carryon pets were also evacuated in the past?

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    $\begingroup$ I found AC120-32 that says blind people should evacuate with their guide dogs. That's an advisory circular, not a regulation per se. Also are you interested in pets carried in the cargo hold? Like larger breed dogs? If so, feel free to add that into the question. $\endgroup$ – ymb1 Mar 15 '18 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ I'm more interested in animals that aren't service animals, since I know that service animals are governed by different regulations. Cargo hold didn't come up in the discussion, so I'm mostly curiously about pets brought aboard in a small carrier and stowed as the personal item under the seat in front of you. $\endgroup$ – Curious_Flyer Mar 15 '18 at 20:22

There are no policies because pets are technically cargo/baggage as you note in the question, and treated as such. In other words in case of an emergency evacuating the passengers is a priority and as you would be instructed to leave your baggage behind you would more than likely be instructed to leave any pets behind.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows each airline to decide if they will allow you to travel with your pet in the passenger cabin. If an airline does allow you to bring your pet into the cabin, we consider your pet container to be carry-on baggage and you must follow all carry on baggage rules (14 CFR part 121, section 121.589)

The exception to this is service animals which are not treated as pets.

Service animals are not pets. They are working animals that assist persons with disabilities.


NOTE: For the answer, scroll down to the bottom of the comment


Loss of pressurisation is a potentially serious emergency in an aircraft flying at the normal cruising altitude for most jet passenger aircraft. Loss of cabin pressure, or depressurisation, is normally classified as explosive, rapid, or gradual based on the time interval over which cabin pressure is lost.

The cabins of modern passenger aircraft are pressurised in order to create an environment which is physiologically suitable for humans (Aircraft Pressurisation Systems). Maintaining a pressure difference between the outside and the inside of the aircraft places stress on the structure of the aircraft. The higher the aircraft flies, the higher the pressure differential that needs to be maintained and the higher the stress on the aircraft structure. A compromise between structural design and physiological need is achieved on most aircraft by maintaining a maximum cabin altitude of 8,000 ft.

The composition of atmospheric air remains constant as air pressure reduces with increasing in altitude and since the partial pressure of oxygen also reduces, the absolute amount of oxygen available also reduces. The reduction in air pressure reduces the flow of oxygen across lung tissue and into the human bloodstream. A significant reduction in the normal concentration of oxygen in the bloodstream is called Hypoxia.

The degree to which an individual’s performance is affected by lack of oxygen varies depending on the altitude of the aircraft, and on personal factors such as the general health of the person and whether he/she is a smoker. Below 10,000 ft, the reduced levels of oxygen are considered to have little effect on aircrew and healthy passengers but above that, the effect becomes progressively more pronounced. Above 20,000 ft, lack of oxygen leads to loss of intellectual ability followed by unconsciousness and eventually respiratory and heart failure. When suddenly deprived of normal levels of oxygen, estimates of the Time of Useful Consciousness are a pertinent guide - at 35,000 ft it is less than one minute. See the separate article on Hypoxia for more detailed information.

Note that some military flights may involve deliberate depressurization at high altitude for the purpose of dropping troops or equipment by parachute. Such flights are normally conducted in accordance with specific special procedures.


Four points must be done at this time - Fasten seat belt - Use of supplementary oxygen mask - Stay on oxygen until further advised - No smoking


Commercial airlines do not have procedure for any type of pet that is brought on the aircraft. My advice would be to not bring a pet and in the case of emergency bring you're own oxygen bottle or oxygen bag to use in the unlikely case of emergency.

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    $\begingroup$ This addresses oxygen, but the question is not about oxygen - it's about evacuation. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Mar 17 '18 at 3:04
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    $\begingroup$ Is there anywhere that would allow you to bring your own oxygen bottle even if you had one? Cylinders of compressed gas are not permitted in the US, and likely elsewhere for hazmat reasons. Some airlines might allow portable oxygen concentrators, but those are meant for humans during normal flight, not pets during emergencies. $\endgroup$ – Zach Lipton Mar 17 '18 at 6:58

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