Tips + Trends

The Most Dog Friendly Airports in the U.S.

It’s easier to travel with your fur baby now that more than 30 airports in the U.S. now offer pet relief zones past security checkpoints. (Photo: GoGo Images Corp/Alamy)

Imagine getting to the airport, going through security with your carry on and learning that your flight is delayed for several hours. Now for the really bad news: There are no bathrooms available unless you leave the terminal.

That’s long been the case for people who had to travel around the country or the world with their pets. But every dog will now have his day — at least in the United States — now that airports are building pet relief zones beyond security checkpoints.

As expected, some of these new doggie potties are pretty cute.

Chicago’s Midway International Airport recently converted an old family restroom (located past the security checkpoint at Concourse A, near Gate 4) into a dog relief station with fake grass, poop bags and even a mini fire hydrant.

The facility is kept clean with an auto-flush system and a hand-held shower head for those messier moments. There’s even a sink for the owners to wash up afterwards.

Denver International Airport pet relief zone
Denver International Airports pet relief zone has embrace Colorado’s great outdoors with its design, replacing a fire hydrant with a rock formation. (Photo: Denver International Airport)
JFK T5 Airport Wooftop
The new park on the roof of Terminal 5 at JFK has a “Wooftop.” (Photo: Gensler DC)

Never one to be outdone, New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport has a similar fire-hydrant motif behind paw print marked doors in Terminal 4, but also an outdoor “Wooftop” patio (yes, you read that right) just for dogs to do their business—and a lovely outdoor space for owners to get fresh air—in JetBlue’s Terminal 5.

And Denver International Airport has eschewed the traditional fire hydrant, designing its new pet relief stations, located in the centers of each of the three concourses, to reflect a Rocky Mountain motif complete with artificial rock and turf and a large mural of a dog and owner enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors.

Airports haven’t suddenly gone friendly for Fido.

The “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel” mandate requires airports with 10,000 or more annual passengers to provide convenient, indoor, wheelchair-accessible pet-relief areas for service animals that accompany those passengers who are connecting, arriving, or departing on flights.

The number of service animals that travel each year has grown dramatically, according to government statistics. The U.S. alone sees over 31,000 service dogs walking through airport terminals, while international numbers almost double that. And these numbers don’t reflect folks who just want to show their new puppy to grandma at Christmas.

The Department of Transportation estimates 66% of the service animals are guide-dogs for the blind while the other 33% perform other tasks such as therapy animals or companionship for travelers with psychological disabilities.

The new law went in to effect near the end of summer 2016, so those traveling for the holidays should now have ample relief options for their fur babies across US.

As a result, Midway, JFK and Denver now join more than 30 airports in the U.S. to offer pet relief beyond the security checkpoint.

Some airports were quick to make the change.

Reagan National and Washington Dulles International Airports installed several pet relief areas back in 2010, and San Diego International Airport joined the pack in 2013.

Philadelphia International Airport may have more options than most for dog owners. The airport, which serves close to 90,000 passengers a day, has installed seven pet-relief areas in Terminals A-East and A-West, B, C, D, E, and F.

The 80-square foot spaces ran PHL approximately $6,000 each to convert and were paid for by the airlines themselves (not tax dollars). It will cost airports around $88.1 million over the next 20 years to build and maintain the pet relief zones, the DoT says, costing terminals space and revenue that could have been made from retail and restaurants.

Less stress on passenger and their furry friends may be worth it, however, as the new bathrooms give dogs a potty break without having to force owners to stand in line for security again.

Pet Friendly Travel has come up with a full list of pet-friendly airports and where to find their relief stations.