Flat bed seats squish pets from first class

bart havanese pet travel

Bart, a well-traveled Havanese, has been grounded due to changes in Delta Air Lines’ pet policy that bans pets in premium cabins on some international flights.

Dogs and cats are being kicked to the coach (cabin) by some airlines with flat bed seats. The horizontal seats that are supposed to make airline travel more comfortable have become a pain in the rear for passengers traveling with pets. In some cases, pawsengers  have been booted out of first and business class, infuriating pet parents like Jane Shivers whose well-traveled Havanese Bart doesn’t fly coach.

“We often travel to Zurich on business and have to stay for 10 days to two weeks so we take our most important family member, Bart, a handsome and sophisticated traveling Havanese,” Shivers wrote in an email to The Jet Set Pets. “Bart never says a word on a flight, and does not leave behind crushed Cheerios or dirty diapers. Recently, however, he has been grounded. Delta and United have decreed that pets cannot travel in Business Class or First Class on their overseas flights because they have gone to flat beds. We recently left Bart behind because Delta told us this, only to get to Atlanta for the Zurich flight and be on a plane with the same old seats in Business that we have flown in for years (with Bart).”

Pet travel changes

Lucy poses in business class on a Delta Air Lines flight from Rome to LA before the Atlanta-based carrier added lie-flat beds.

In 2012, Delta banned pets in the business cabin on international flights due to its flat bed seats in premium class. Then it implemented restrictions in regards to its 767. Delta modified its international flight crew rest accommodations with bunks beneath the passenger cabin in the 767, thus limiting the amount of space available in the cargo hold. But it’s the airline’s policy involving flat bed seats that has  Shivers fuming.

“These policies are punitive to us and I have heard other Platinum Medallions and Diamonds complain about these policies,” Shivers wrote, referring to Delta’s top-tier frequent flyers. “These small pet carriers can be in their regular spot for take-off and landing and when the seat is reclined there is a way to slide the carrier under the footrest. What is the big deal?

“If they are going to say small dogs can’t fly up front, then it seems to me the babies and screaming toddlers should be sent to the back too.”

If banishing babies from first class seems far-fetched, it isn’t. Last year Malaysia Airlines banned infants in its first class cabins of 747-400s and forthcoming Airbus A380s.

Traveling with pets in upper class

flat bed seats lie flat beds

Lucy in first clas on a Swiss International Air Lines flight from Zurich to Los Angeles.

Traveling with pets has become more common but that does not translate to the process becoming easier. It’s bad enough that many airlines have significantly raised their fees for bringing a pet on board and that the pet counts as your one carry on (a personal item is still allowed). But at the times when we need legroom the most — on long-haul flights — we sometimes aren’t allowed to sit in the premium cabins with our four-legged travel companion. As more airlines implement flat bed seats, passengers shouldn’t have to decide whether to leave a family member behind or sit in coach.

In addition to Delta and UnitedOpenSkies, a premium transatlantic airline launched by British Airways in 2008, doesn’t allow in-cabin pets in business class where there are comfy, lie-flat beds.

The problem with lie-flat beds is they do not allow for carriers to be properly stowed, per FAA rules, at the seat. The FAA requires carry-on baggage be stowed in a suitable baggage or storage compartment or under a passenger seat  for taxi or pushback, takeoff and landing. Carry-on baggage may be stowed either against a passenger class divider or bulkhead if both are stressed for inertia loads, if it is restrained from shifting by FAA-approved tiedown straps or cargo nets. And carry-on baggage may be stowed in coat closets or other compartments which have been approved by the FAA for this use.

The Jet Set Pets applauds American Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines for figuring out a way to make flat bed seats work for their pet-toting passengers.  Read on to see what those two airlines are doing to accommodate those flying with pets and what other airlines are not doing.

American Airlines

  • In January, AA debuted its 777-300ERs with fully flat bed seats in business and first class on its DFW-Brazil route, followed by flights between London’s Heathrow Airport and both DFW and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
  • Pets weighing less than 20 pounds are allowed to travel in First Class and Business Class on American’s 777-300ER and other wide-body aircraft. For lie-flat seats in First Class and Business Class, kennels must be stowed in the enclosed partitions adjacent to each seat during taxi, takeoff, landing and during inflight turbulence. Kennels may remain in front of the First Class and Business Class passenger seats at other times.

Delta Air Lines

  • Pets are not allowed in the Business or BusinessElite Cabin on certain flights with flat bed seats.
  • Animals will not be accepted as checked baggage or cargo on any Delta operated 767 aircraft. There are no exceptions to this restriction for any passenger.


  • Cats and dogs are only permitted in the Premium Plus and Economy cabins.  No pets are allowed in Business, where there are lie-flat beds.

Swiss International Air Lines

  • Due to the structure of the seats, it is not possible to stow away the pet under your seat in the First and Business Class sections of the Airbus 330/340. In this case, the pet pack can be placed in the wardrobe, baggage compartment or maybe under a seat in the Economy Class for take-off and landing.


  • Pets are not permitted in United Global First, United First, United BusinessFirst or United Business on Boeing 747, 757, 767 or 777 aircraft due to inadequate storage space under the seat.
  • A customer traveling with an in-cabin pet on a Boeing 757-200 aircraft must be seated by the window.

US Airways

  • Envoy Suites feature flat bed seats but US Airway’s pet policy prohibits carry-on pets to/from Europe, South America, the Middle East, Antigua, Bridgetown Barbados, Montego Bay, Jamaica and St. Lucia.

Virgin America

  • Does not have flat bed seats but has never allowed in-cabin pets in first class because there is not space under the seat in front of passengers to accommodate the pet inside its carrier, which is required during take-off and landing.

The Jet Set Pets hopes that more airlines will follow American and SWISS, thus allowing pets traveling with premium passengers to be placed elsewhere for takeoff and landing. Airplanes are built to the specifications of airlines. As more airlines install lie-flat beds, hopefully they will remember their little pawsengers.


Is it easier traveling with a dog or a baby/toddler? Share your opinion with The Jet Set Pets Community in the comment box below.




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  1. Michelle says

    Hi Kelly,
    Do you have any suggestions for us to fly from CA to Hawaii with our bulldog. I will not check him as baggage. Are there any other options for large dogs?
    Thanks for your help.

  2. Bernie says

    I have a Havanese (Lucy), and we are trying to take a trip to Brazil. My plan was to Fly Delta Business, but I was told they do not allow ANY animals in business class on international flights. I was fuming, so I called back and said, what if I want 2 seats, one for me and one for Lucy. They denied my request. I have a bad back and want to use the lay flat seats. Any suggestions? Obviously my 500,000 FF points with Delta won’t help, but is there a skyteam member that will accept the miles and let us travel in Business? Lucy is just like Bart, a great traveler..

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