Petfinder names the top 5 most pet-friendly airlines of 2009

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Photo: Smithereen11 (Flickr)

Just in time for summer vacation, we’ve named the top five pet-friendliest airlines of 2009 (bookmark our story and find more pet-travel tips here). Check out our list and then share your own experiences traveling with your pet in our comments section.

1. Continental – Safety First

Continental
is proud of its PetSafe program, which has a 24-hour Live Animal Desk
(1-800-575-3335) that tracks the pets from origin to destination. It’s
pricier than other programs, but it’s climate-controlled, allows roomy
carriers and has designated cargo staff. Travelers using PetSafe can
even earn miles. The airline also allows small cats, dogs, pet rabbits
and household birds to be carried in the cabin on most domestic flights
for $125 each way.

Pets allowed in cabin: Small dogs, cats, rabbits and birds
Pets allowed as checked baggage: No
Pets allowed in cargo: Yes, all pets that are checked travel in climate-controlled cargo, not as checked baggage

2. JetBlue Airways – Full-Service Pet Love

JetBlue
really embraced pet-toting travelers when it launched JetPaws last
summer. For no additional cost, JetBlue provides a pet carrier bag tag,
two TrueBlue points each way, a welcome e-mail and a free pet-travel
guide. However, like other airlines, JetBlue has hiked its in-cabin pet
charge: one-way fees range from $75 to $100.

Pets allowed in cabin: Small cats and dogs
Pets allowed as checked baggage: No
Pets allowed in cargo: No

3. Airtran – Budget-Friendly

Airtran
won’t make you break the bank to fly with your pet beside you (well,
technically, under your seat). It’s currently the least-expensive
airline to fly with your small pet: just $69 each way.

Pets allowed in cabin: Small dogs, cats and birds
Pets allowed as checked baggage: No
Pets allowed in cargo: No

4. American Airlines – Zoo-Trusted

American Airlines’
animal-trained staff has assisted in transporting animals from popular
zoos in cargo. While they only allow a limited number of pets in the
cabin, they ask pet parents to make special notes for their animal
companions flying in cargo and promise to abide by all requests.

Pets allowed in cabin: Small dogs and cats
Pets allowed as checked baggage: Yes, larger dogs and cats
Pets allowed in cargo: Yes

5. United Airlines – Non-Discriminating

United Airlines
loves animals of all kinds. They accept small cats, dogs and birds in
the cabin; rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs as checked baggage and
other animals including parrots, cockatiels and ferrets in United
Cargo. (Shipping by cargo is for items, like some pets, that you can’t
check as baggage. Your pet may or may not be on the aircraft with you.)
Have a short-nosed dog that you can’t bring in the cabin? Check your
date of flight; some breeds and mixes are not allowed in cargo or as
checked baggage from June 1 through September 30 of each year.

Pets allowed in cabin: Small cats, dogs and birds
Pets allowed as checked baggage: Depends on the aircraft
Pets allowed in cargo: Yes; however, the type of animal allowed depends on destination and arrival locations

Petfinder.com is also excited about the up-and-coming Pet Airways, which is expected to launch this July. If it’s as top-notch as planned, it will have a nice spot in our 2010 ranking.