A paws-itive experience: Taking my dog on JSX for her first-ever flight
Late last year, I was visiting a friend in Dallas and decided to take advantage of some surprisingly affordable fares with semi-private air carrier JSX. While I was waiting at JSX's private terminal at Dallas Love Field (DAL) for my flight back to William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) in Houston, I noticed a small parade of adorable dogs walking off of arriving flights on leashes.
Immediately, I thought of my own two dogs: Amelia and Patty.
Named for famous pilots Amelia Earhart and Patty Wagstaff, the dogs I share with my girlfriend are near and dear to me. Growing up, I didn't have a dog, and when I visited friends who did, I tended to avoid their canine counterparts.
However, when I started dating my girlfriend, her black Labrador retriever Amelia quickly stole my heart. And after we moved to a larger apartment in Houston, we decided it was time for Amelia to have a companion. So we adopted Patty — a large dog we believe has some German shorthaired pointer in her — from the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue. The now 3-year-old member of our family is a bundle of joy and energy, though she tends to get a bit anxious when there are loud noises, making it challenging to travel with her.
Wondering if JSX might be an option for Patty, I looked up the air carrier's pet policy. Excited to see that I could bring Patty on board leashed, I decided to give her a taste of what I consider one of my own life's joys — flying.
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JSX and its pet policy
JSX operates a fleet of 30-seat Embraer 135 and 145 regional jets to destinations around the West Coast, Texas, Florida and the Northeast. Because it is a semi-private air carrier, JSX operates from private terminals away from the main airline terminals at commercial airports. Plus, it has a different set of rules of carriage, so passengers do not have to go through Transportation Security Administration screening to board a flight. This makes it possible to arrive at the airport as late as 20 minutes before a flight's scheduled departure.
JSX also has one of the most lenient pet policy in the U.S. airline industry that I've come across. While every other U.S.-based carrier permits in-cabin pets, they generally require smaller, non-service animals to be kept in carriers underneath the seat in front of you. Some carriers also permit larger dogs, though they are required to travel in kennels that are stored in the cargo hold.
Although fees apply for traveling with pets on other carriers — expect to pay anywhere from $50 for an Allegiant flight to $125 for a one-way flight with United or JetBlue — at JSX, the in-cabin kennel option is free. What makes JSX especially appealing to pet owners, though, is its policy for medium to large dogs. If your dog weighs less than 65 pounds, they can travel in the cabin with you and out of a carrier for the price of a second seat. This option is a godsend for those who have dogs too large to fit in a small carrier in the cabin but who are hesitant to check a dog as cargo (like me). Cape Air has a similar policy as JSX, though only for certain flights around Martha's Vineyard (MVY) and Nantucket (ACK).
Wanting Patty's first time flying to be a shorter experience in case she got anxious, my girlfriend and I booked a 45-minute JSX flight from Houston to Dallas.
To fly with a medium to large dog, JSX requires calling its reservations center. The booking process ended up being headache-free. My call was answered instantly and it took just 10 minutes on the phone to get everything squared away. The friendly agent explained the pet policy and emailed me the form I needed to submit at check-in. She also sent me a copy of my itinerary so I could double-check all of the information before we disconnected.
The form was easy to fill out. As long as your dog's vaccinations are up to date and the records are readily available, it should not take more than a few minutes to complete.
The one-way fare for both me and Patty totaled $318. This included an extra $40 fee to reserve two seats together, which I needed to pay since the Hop On fare I booked (the cheapest option JSX offers) does not include seat selection. I opted to pay for the flight with my Chase Sapphire Reserve and therefore earned 954 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, a $19.08 value based on TPG's latest valuations. Note that fares are considerably more expensive for JSX's longer flights, such as Dallas-Las Vegas (LAS), Dallas-Miami (MIA) and Miami-Westchester County (HPN), and doubling that fare to include JSX's pet fee can easily top $1,000 each way.
My girlfriend, Patty and I left a little earlier than necessary for our 8:30 a.m. flight in case we encountered some traffic. Fortunately, it was an easy drive to Houston's secondary airport, so we arrived around 7:50 a.m. JSX's private terminal is located on the east side of the square-shaped airport near the Signature Flight Support fixed-based operator and the Houston Police Department's helicopter base. We left my car with the valet, which costs $35 a day, though you could save some money by getting dropped off or using a ride-hailing service.
JSX's terminal was small but comfortable and functional, with a coffee and tea station available, as well as a TV and free Wi-Fi. Once I handed over my driver's license and the pet form to one of JSX's customer service agents, my bag was swabbed for explosive residue — the only sort of security screening I underwent — before I was handed my two boarding passes (one for me, and one for Patty) and a sample of Mab & Stoke muscle relief "recovery cream," which JSX was heavily promoting. Since the main room of the lounge was somewhat crowded, we chose to wait in one of two private waiting rooms that are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Patty initially seemed content while donning her "pets on jets" bandana JSX gave us, but my girlfriend and I started to get a little nervous when she began whining each time one of us would leave the waiting room. To tide her over, my girlfriend gave her a new chew toy and some doggie treats.
When it was time to board, Patty started getting even more anxious, so we left some extra room between us and the passengers in front of us. The aisle of our Embraer 145 was a bit narrow for her, but we made it to our seats at 4A, 4C and 4D.
The interior felt fresh despite the aircraft being nearly 19 years old. The seats on this particular plane were configured in a 1-2 pattern, though most Embraer 145s on Texas routes sport a 1-1 seat configuration, with the aisle seat on the right-hand side converted to an oversized cupholder and the extra seat fee still applying if you want to bring your pet. Patty tried to climb the seat once (which is not allowed), but after her initial attempt, she remained comfortably seated on the floor. It was then that the flight attendant came through with pre-departure water bottles and an apology. She explained that she had suffered a minor injury during the flight to Houston, so, out of an abundance of caution, the captain had asked her to remain seated for our flight to Dallas unless there was an emergency. I respect safety-driven decisions like that, so I didn't mind missing out on snacks during the short flight. Plus, it saved me from worrying about Patty bumping my tray table.
Related: As close to private as it gets: Flying JSX’s new route to LAX
I checked the menu provided to see the drinks and snacks options that would have been available:
Patty seemed to take all the noises and movement in stride, other than some head-tilting confusion when the Embraer's air conditioning was turned off to start the engine. It was more like the car rides she loves and less like the elevators she hates.
After a quick taxi, we departed Runway 31L and were soon on our way across the Lone Star State to Dallas.
During the flight, Patty continued to settle down, and by the end of the journey, she was comfortable enough to lie down. I held on to her leash the entire time, but she seemed so relaxed that it probably wasn't necessary.
As we approached Runway 31R in Dallas, I made sure to hold on to Patty just in case the braking was heavy, though it thankfully wasn't.
To avoid disturbing other passengers after landing, we decided to de-plane last. The walk back down the aisle was again a little tricky, but Patty didn't seem to mind, as she received plenty of affection from the flight attendants, pilots and ramp agents as we disembarked. They really do love dogs at JSX, it seems.
Overall, flying JSX with Patty was a great experience. The process was simple, the staff legitimately appeared to welcome traveling dogs and the convenience couldn't be beat. While it would have been nice to have some service on this short flight, I will never fault an airline for making a safety-based decision, especially one that was probably a blessing in disguise. If you want your four-legged friend to accompany you on your next trip, it's worth checking this unique service out.
Congrats, Patty! You've earned your wings.
Featured photo by Ethan Klapper/The Points Guy.