Can You Bring a Snake on a Plane?

Most airlines prohibit snakes from traveling in plane cabins. However, snake lovers can prepare their snake to ride in the cargo hold by consulting with the airline about its requirements.

Jun 27, 2023By Colt Dodd
can you bring snake on plane

Whether you can bring a snake on a plane depends on the airline’s policy. Yet, most airlines prohibit bringing an animal into the plane’s cabin unless it’s a service animal. While some airlines allow passengers to bring cats and dogs weighing less than 25 pounds, reptiles are generally not permitted.

If one’s making a long trip and wants to bring a scaly companion, they have options.

Whether You Can Bring a Snake on a Plane Depends on the Airline

corn snake being held by handler

Every airline has a different policy. For instance, this is what JetBlue says: “We’re committed to each and every one of our customers––including the four-legged ones.” Note the term “four-legged.” This applies to small dogs, cats, and service animals. It does not pertain to friends of the legless variety.

Yet, airline policies change frequently. In case of any changes, snake lovers should consult their airline’s rules before booking. That way, they can plan appropriately and make accommodations for their pet ahead of time.

Wait... Can I Bring the Snake as an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals (also called “ESAs”) offer relief to people who live with psychiatric conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder. In recent years, however, mainstream airlines have become more and more stringent about what qualifies as an ESA.

Here’s a real-life anecdote to illustrate this point further. Meet Bartholomew, a four-foot-long boa constrictor. He made headlines in January 2023 when his owner packed him into her luggage, then claimed him as an ESA when discovered by TSA officials. Needless to say, this didn’t work.

However, the TSA did issue a statement saying that while the snake couldn’t travel in the plane’s cabin if packaged properly, this dangerous noodle could’ve traveled in the cargo hold.

A Snake Can Travel in the Cargo Hold

a jetblue plane that carries animals

Nobody wants to put their beloved companion in the cargo hold of a plane. After all, it’s a living, breathing thing––not an object. Yet, for people making cross-country moves or otherwise taking long trips, this is their only option.

As noted, the airline can provide specific instructions on how to safely prepare a snake for its ride in the cargo hold. Still, some additional considerations include:

  • Getting permits: Some exotic pets need permits to travel between states. For instance, in New York, exotic snake handlers must have permits to keep and travel with certain pets.
  • Preparing the snake’s container: Snakes are delicate creatures that are sensitive to air pressure and sudden temperature changes. So, its container should reflect its environment at home to minimize stress. When getting ready for travel, one should put substrate in the tank, a hiding place, and some food.
  • Acclimating the snake to the container: A few days before traveling, owners should let their snakes explore their shipping tanks. That way, the snake won’t go into shock when it enters its temporary home.

Other Options for Accommodating a Snake

yellow snake on a branch

If a snake owner’s going out of town, they should make arrangements for the snake to stay in its enclosure, preferably at home. They could:

  • Ask a friend or neighbor to check in: Many snakes are low-maintenance creatures. They don’t require much interaction, and some only eat once every few days. So, having someone stop by to check in isn’t a bad idea. If they notice anything awry, they can bring the snake to the vet.
  • Make arrangements on Rover: While many pet sitters on Rover focus on cats and dogs, some have no problem tending to non-venomous snakes. For a fee, they can stop in as requested to feed, check on, and even interact with the snake.
  • Get a one-way camera: There are many cheap cameras online that owners can power using a USB cable. Paired with an app, these devices can offer real-time footage that assures owners that everything’s fine. This is ideal for pet owners who are only going to leave town for a couple of days.

Why Can’t You Bring a Snake on a Plane?

a pet snake under a rock

Remember the 2006 movie “Snakes on a Plane”? Yeah. It didn’t end well. But airlines have prohibited reptiles in the cabin long before this film was released. While there isn’t an exact reason why airlines prohibit snakes on planes, there are a few suspicions why:

  • Airlines want to charge for bringing animals on board: Prior to Covid-19, airlines had lenient guidelines when traveling with pets. Yet, this changed after the pandemic disrupted the airline industry. Some suspect that airlines want to nickel and dime passengers for everything to make up for lost profits, including by prohibiting some animals yet charging for others.
  • It's a health hazard: As friendly as most pet snakes are, they can still transfer diseases, like Salmonella.
  • Many people have snake phobias: Psychiatry Research reports that snakes are among the most feared animals, noting that at least half the population feels anxious when confronted with one. To ensure comfort and happy trails for everyone, airlines prohibit snakes.
  • Snakes have a reputation for being dangerous: Even the largest garter snakes are harmless. Yet, the same can’t be said for ball pythons. Although many are beloved family members, they do constrict and kill prey. This seldom happens to people, but airlines don’t want to take the chance.

Bringing a Snake on a Plane Is a Last-Ditch Measure

a snake curled up in its tank

Snakes don’t process changes in the environment like mammals do. They can easily go into shock and die. So, before bringing a snake on a plane, owners should ask themselves: “Is it worth it?”

If one’s going on a three-day trip, one should arrange for the snake to stay at home. However, if they need to bring the snake aboard, they should check the airline’s specifications first.

Colt Dodd
By Colt Dodd

Colt Dodd is a sighthound enthusiast with three years of freelance writing experience. He has an Italian greyhound/Shetland sheepdog mix named Homer. In his spare time, he enjoys going to dog parks and writing fiction.