American Airlines Fat Shames A Dog

In what appears to be a failed attempt to raise a scandal, a passenger travelling on an American Airlines flight has accused the carrier of fat shaming his dog.

American Airlines above clouds
Passenger Lachlan Markay heads for Twitter to hint at fat shame. Photo: American Airlines

Lachlan Markay’s post has caused a stir, at least on Twitter. The US writer tweeted that his dog, Lou, was refused access to the cabin on account of its being overweight. American denies it fat shamed the dog. The airline states that the dog was simply too tall for the carry-on “kennel”.

There was some public sympathy for Mr Markay. If nothing else for the fact that his holiday, he claims, had been “ruined” by AA’s decision. But the majority of comments threaded to his initial post were of fervent condemnation of the airline for what appeared to be a blatant case of fat shaming.

Rules of carriage

American Airlines is specific about what it expects of owners who prefer their pet to travel with them in the cabin. For what the carrier terms “carry on pets” the rules are clear. A passenger may travel with one “kennel” as long as the following criteria are met:

  • The passenger pays the carry-on pet charge.
  • The pet stays in the kennel under the seat in front for the entire flight.


  • The pet “must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position in their kennel (without touching any side or the top of the container)”.
  • The size of a rigid kennel cannot exceed the dimensions of the space beneath the seat in front.
  • Soft-sided and collapsible kennels are required to fit beneath the seat without being “excessively collapsed”.
American Airlines ground crew
Rules of carriage are in place to ensure the safety of passengers. Photo: American Airlines

Safety first

The rules appear to be fair enough, especially regarding their concern for the safety of passengers and the animals. The FAA’s protocol in respect of the carriage of pets in-cabin is the same as that of hand luggage. Airline guidelines are governed by safety compliance, and the ease of a crew’s handling of cabin emergencies.

American Airlines states that if a pet does not meet the criteria required of its carry-on service the animal must be checked into the hold of the aircraft. This AA does on a first-come-first-served basis.

In an email to Simple Flying, the carrier clarified that it was not the dog’s weight that forced its staff to prohibit the animal’s cabin access, but its dimensions. American told us that this distinction was “reiterated” to Markay at the time of his online complaint.

A spokesperson for American said, “Lou could not … stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position in their kennel (without touching any side or the top of the container).”

The worms turn

An hour later Markay tweeted that he had been able to board the flight with Lou. That led some industry observers to question whether AA had repealed its decision solely in response to Markay’s public caviling.

It is likely the need to keep in with the crowd steered the carrier’s decision in a small way. The airline would rather be seen to be lenient in such a case, especially when it is publicized. However, the wisdom of the airline’s U-turn is still to be fathomed.

American Airlines check-in desk
Support for Markay’s plight was quickly droned out by censure. Photo: American Airlines

Not everyone was sympathetic to Markay’s plight, and some slammed AA for its backtrack. In fact, Markay’s announcement that “AA wisely decided to make an exception” was met with more disapproval and anger than was his first gripe about the ban.