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American Airlines is relaxing part of its pet policy to let owners bring their animal companion and a full-size carry-on bag into the cabin.

Until this week, people who carried a pet into the cabin, which involves paying a $150 fee, could only have one other small item that fit under the seat. Anything bigger, like a carry-on bag with wheels, needed to be checked for a $35 fee. Or they could put the pet in the cargo hold.

Now American is letting passengers bring a pet in the cabin and also bring either a regular carry-on bag or a personal item — just not both bags. The old policy struck some pet owners as unfair, since they were already paying a pet fee. Passengers must still pay a fee, but their pet no longer counts as a carry-on.

An American spokeswoman confirmed that the rules change took effect Thursday. She couldn’t explain the reason because the airline’s corporate offices were closed for Good Friday, and decision-makers were not available. 

Gary Leff, a travel blogger who first wrote about the change, recalled traveling years ago with a Yorkshire terrier.

“It was always frustrating that the dog counted as the carry-on even though I was paying the extra (pet) fee that was sometimes more than the ticket for me,” he said Friday.

Leff said he thinks American Airlines’ new policy will reduce the urge for travelers to falsely claim that their pet is a service animal that flies for free, enabling them to bring a carry-on as well.

Even with the new policy, however, traveling with a pet takes a lot of planning and research ahead of time, and there are many factors that could prohibit Fido or Felix from being allow into the cabin. For one thing, there is a maximum total number of pets allowed per cabin, which varies depending on the type of aircraft.

On United, the total maximum of four pets is allowed in Economy class on the Airbus 319, while Economy on the Airbus 319 allows a total maximum of six pets. In all instances, individual passengers are allowed to bring a maximum of pets in one single carrier. 

Other U.S. airlines that allow pets on board include Delta, American, Southwest, Alaska and Frontier. On most, pet carriers count as carry-ons, according to the American Kennel Club.

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