Pet owners invariably find it difficult to leave their furry companions at home when they travel.
Flying with pets has become increasingly popular as airlines embrace the opportunity to share a travel experience or relocation with our constant companions. While the experience will be rewarding for pet owners and pets alike, the process is complicated and takes meticulous planning to ensure a stress-free and safe journey for you and your beloved family pet.
For many, a pet is also an “emotional support” – and many airlines – especially in the USA treat them differently too.
There is much to consider before taking a pet with you on a flight, but with thorough research and preparation, your pets will thank you for taking the time to make their journey safe and comfortable. Airlines differ in their approach to pet travel and have individual rules and guidelines to follow. The process can be lengthy and daunting for first-time pet travellers, so we have compiled this guide to help you through the complex and varied processes involved and provide some of the best airlines to research to make your journey one to remember rather than forget.
The BusinessClass.com Guide to Flying with Pets:
Where will my pet be housed during the flight?
On the whole, pets, including dogs, cats, and other animals, fly in a pressurised and air-conditioned hold of the same aircraft as the owner and inside appropriately sized, secure kennels or containers depending on the animal. The environment is calming, with similar conditions to the passenger cabin. The holds are often dimly lit and undisturbed to avoid unnecessary animal stress. Each airline has specific local guidelines and also adheres to the International Air Transport Association's regulations for the transportation of animals. Such rules include the assurance of appropriate-sized kennels and containers to allow the free movement of animals. Some airlines assist customers with the selection of containers, while others leave the responsibility to the owner. In any event, strict measurement and weight limit information is available on each airline's website.
Many airlines allow smaller dogs – typically under 8 kilogrammes and small enough to fit inside a pet-friendly travel bag under the seat ahead – to travel with the owners in the cabin. However, it is not universal amongst airlines and may not always be the best environment for your pet in any event. Your pet will have to remain inside the pet travel bag throughout the journey, and there will be far more to distract your small pet in the main cabin. It will be noisy, the owner may transfer their travel anxieties onto their pet, and there is no Plan B if your pet becomes distressed and anxious.
Pet places on aircraft are limited, and not all aircraft or cabins will have the capacity or space to house a travelling pet. Research diligently and book your pet's flight tickets well before travel dates to ease the process and prevent disappointment.
Essential steps to take before your pet travels in the aircraft:
Flying can be very stressful for animals, and your beloved pet must be deemed fit to fly before undertaking what could be an arduous journey for you and your pet. Though health problems caused by air travel are unlikely and, thankfully, extremely rare, your pet will have to undergo a series of compulsory veterinary processes for international travel. Costs will vary depending on the animal and breed.
Your pet will undergo a comprehensive health check. The healthier the pet, the more likely it will cope with the stresses of air travel and quickly bounce back. Any underlying health or weight issues will increase the pet's vulnerability during a lengthy flight.
Your pet will require appropriate vaccinations depending on the requirements of the international destination. This could take the form of a series of treatments. Always discuss your travel plans with your family veterinary practice at an early stage to ensure you allow sufficient time to begin the vaccination process, which could be lengthy.
Your pet will be treated against parasites. Pet import regulations vary depending on the destination, and your pet may require a course of treatments within a specific travel timeframe. Again, seek the advice of your veterinary practice.
Your pet is advised to have microchip implantation. Ensure all database details are current, especially owner details, as customs officials will use a microchip reader to process your pet during their journey. A microchip will also be a safety net should you become unexpectedly separated from your pet.
Your vet will help complete the necessary paperwork to ensure your pet is given a valid Animal Health Certificate, mandatory within the E.U., or an equivalent pet passport for other destinations outside the E.U. This process will include any significant medical history and vaccination status. A lot of paperwork is required to travel with pets, and everything must be clearly detailed. Allow yourself the time to complete the paperwork accurately.
Buy the best airline-approved pet carrier/kennel and familiarise your pet with the carrier or kennel far ahead of the flight to reduce stress on your pet. Ensure your carrier meets your airline's guidelines, as these may differ. Many airlines offer approved carriers and kennels for an additional cost.
Many airlines allow recognised service dogs to travel for free in the same cabin as the owner. However, emotional support dogs are not generally included in this category and must travel with other pets in the hold. Check your airline's service dog travel policy in the early stages of planning a flight to see if your dog is eligible to travel with you in the cabin.
It can be expensive to fly with animals, and prices can vary significantly between airlines and based on the type of animal, breed, size and weight. Below we list the popular airlines offering a pet-friendly travel service with some key features to note.
Best Pet-Friendly Airlines
British Airways has a pet-friendly approach to flying with your family pets and service dogs who meet the airline's criteria travel for free in the main cabin with the owner. In this instance, the dog owner must contact the airline at least three days before the departure date.
Domesticated pets, including emotional support dogs, must travel in the hold. British Airways have teamed up with PetAir UK on flights from the U.K. to ensure the welfare and happiness of your pets - namely cats, dogs and rabbits only - throughout their journey. Run by vets, PetAir UK has been flying pets around the globe since 2004. Flights coming into the U.K. are serviced by B.A.'s sister company IAG Cargo with over 60 years of experience transporting animals internationally.
Pet transportation costs will vary depending on the size of the animal and the destination but can run into several thousands of pounds. Contact British Airways for individual pricing, or use this quick quote tool for more details.
The United States airline restricts pet travel to cats and dogs only on flights of up to 12 hours (including the time taken with customs) and strictly within specific destinations, not including transatlantic flights.
The airline sometimes allows pets to travel as a paid and checked pet carry-on, though this is restricted to the animal breed, size, age and destination. Pet owners must provide a suitable kennel small enough to fit under the seat in front, and the animal must remain inside for the duration of the flight. In this instance, the kennel and animal will be the maximum carry-on luggage. In all other cases, pets must travel with American Airlines Cargo. Due to space limitations, carry-on pets are not permitted in First or Business Class on certain Boeing 777s and 787s.
Fully-trained service animals are permitted to travel in the cabin free of charge.
View the airline's website on pet travel for full terms and conditions and up-to-date pricing.
Dubai-based airline Emirates has a dedicated pet-friendly service called Emirates Pets with Emirates SkyCargo, specifically designed to ensure the highest levels of care for your pets while strictly adhering to the International Air Transport Association's Live Animal Regulations (IATA LAR). Dubai Airport, by nature of its location, is often used during transit, and Emirates has an excellent facility for animals arriving or departing in transit with veterinary support if required. A minimum of six hours of connection time is needed in Dubai for optimum transit care. Your pets will be fed, cleaned and exercised as requested by the owner.
As with other airlines, there are restrictions to specific breeds of dogs and cats that will not be allowed for carriage on Emirates SkyCargo. Further conditions apply for the import of dangerous dogs and their hybrids, though these will be permitted for transit with the appropriate approval of the destination country. Service dogs can travel in the cabin with the owner – check with the airline directly for more information.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
The Dutch airline is an excellent choice for flying with a cat or dog. Pets should be no younger than 15 weeks of age, and snub-nosed animals are restricted from flying with KLM. Passengers may bring one cat or dog into the cabin when travelling within Europe. However, they must fit inside a closed pet travel bag or kennel and be small enough to fit under the seat in front. The pet and travel container can weigh no more than 8 kilogrammes. In this instance, up to three pets (of the same litter and each up to 6 months old) may travel in the hold and share a kennel of an approved size if they weigh less than 14 kilogrammes each. Individual or sharing animals, including the kennel, must weigh at most 75 kilogrammes. Read the handy guide to preparing for your pet's trip.
There are exceptions to travelling with pets, including transfer times over 3 hours, any flights operated by Boeing 787-9 and 787-10 aircraft, and snub-nosed cats and dogs due to potential difficulties breathing.
The costs are competitive and will vary depending on the departure and destination airports. Pet reservations are made directly via the KLM website. Owners can apply to have trained service dogs in the cabin free of charge. However, emotional support dogs are transported in cargo.
Travelling with a pet on Qantas can only be booked through Qantas Freight Pet Travel Specialists via the airline's website.
The pet travel specialists make sure appropriate containers are used and ensure compliance with the origin, transit stops, and quarantine requirements of the destination. They also provide vet checks. Service dogs can be carried in the passenger cabin; however, all other animals must be transported in a special area in the aircraft's hold where noise levels and air temperature are similar to the passenger cabins.
Unlike some other airlines, Brachycephalic breeds – also known as snub-nose breeds – can travel with Qantas following the airline's pet travel policy. All animals must be over 12 weeks old with veterinary approval of fitness to fly.
It is advised to book your pet's travel before your ticket, as not all aircraft can accommodate pet travel, and the owner must supply appropriate pet crates unless booked through a pet travel specialist. Read the airline's handy Pet Travel – FAQs for more tips and advice.
Doha-based Qatar Airways accepts domesticated dogs, cats and birds as checked baggage on the same or alternative flights per international air travel regulations. All pets must be booked at least 48 hours before flights, and the airline has a handy submission form to assist the process. Service dogs will be allowed in the passenger cabin, free of charge on select routes only, and where not permitted, service dogs will be transported as checked baggage free of charge in the aircraft hold. Falcons may also be carried in the Economy Class passenger cabin.
Pet owners must provide suitable containers to transport their pets in the cabin or cargo hold and enough food and water for the animal's journey.
The ground service crew at Doha will care for all animals in transit and will ensure they are fed (every three to four hours), watered and exercised between flights. Qatar Airways does not accept certain breeds of dogs and cats susceptible to heat stroke due to having a snub-, pug-nose, or other stated animals in the airline's list of restricted animals.
Air Canada allows cats and small dogs to travel as one standard baggage item in the passenger cabin. The carrier must be small enough to fit in the space beneath the seat ahead and be large enough to allow the animal to stand, turn around and lie down. The current cost of cabin pet transportation is CAD$ 50 within Canada and CAD$ 100 for international flights in each direction. Larger animals are carried in the cargo hold for additional costs and have a maximum weight limit of 45 kilograms (100 pounds) for the pet and container combined. Size restrictions also apply. Contact Air Canada Cargo if animals weigh more than the specified limits and arrange specialist transportation of other larger animals, including horses.
Air Canada places restrictions on animals flying to specific locations in the hold when the summer temperature reaches 29.5 degrees centigrade or 85 degrees Fahrenheit and restrictions on peak winter travel due to increased passenger and cargo loads. Air Canada does not allow the following Brachycephalic (short/snub-nosed) breeds of cats and dogs to be transported due to the increased risk of heat stroke and breathing problems. The following list of strong dogs must also be transported in special reinforced containers.
Trained service dogs can accompany their owner in the cabin for free if it meets the requirements of the Air Canada Medical Assistance Desk. Emotional support animals are not permitted in the cabin. Full details of travelling with pets can be found on the airline's website.
TAP Air Portugal
The Portuguese flag carrier is an excellent airline for safely transporting pets with the bonus of earning extra miles for TAPMiles&Go customers. Pets are carried in the cabin or the hold depending on several factors, including breed, size, age and aircraft availability. Passengers are advised to request the pet transport service at least 48 hours before the flight and preferably at the time of booking. All pets must have a microchip I.D., an E.U. pet passport and a valid anti-rabies vaccination. TAP is prohibited from transporting pets to the United Kingdom, except for service animals. See all requirements for flights outside of the E.U. member states.
Dogs and cats of up to 8 kilograms or 17 pounds (including the carrier) can be carried within the cabin when stored beneath the seat if the carrier is within specific dimensions. Flights with a stopover may require the animal to be transported in the hold for part of the journey. The costs of pet travel will depend on the route. The price of pets in the hold depends on the animal's weight and the route. Trained service dogs can travel with their owner in the cabin.
Brachycephalic breeds of cats and dogs, including crossbreeds listed, are not permitted to travel unless proven safe to travel from a veterinary declaration. Dogs considered 'potentially dangerous' must meet special conditions of transport. Read more about travelling with a pet on TAP Air Portugal.
German flag carrier Lufthansa offers a carry-on cabin and cargo hold service depending on the kind of animal, its weight, size and compliance with regulations of different countries. Lufthansa Cargo also transports animals as air freight. Passengers wishing to take small dogs or cats in the cabin must meet requirements, such as a weight limit of no more than 8 kilograms (including the carrier) and no more than two pets in either the cabin or the hold – inside one carrier in the cabin or one to two carriers in the hold. All dogs and cats must be older than 12 weeks or 15 weeks for transportation to/from Germany. Passengers can register cabin pets via the airline's website and read about transporting animals in the aircraft.
Qualified assistance dogs can travel free of charge with their owners in the cabin. However, snub-nosed breeds of cats and dogs are not permitted to travel due to the increased risk of breathing problems. Fighting or dangerous dogs will be transported inside special crates in the hold. An exception to this is when such breeds are between three and six months old, at which time they may travel in the cabin as long they comply with the requirements of cabin travel. Read the Lufthansa information about travelling with snub-nosed and fighting dog breeds. All pets must be carried per IATA regulations. The owner is responsible for supplying approved carrying containers for their pets, as it is unlikely to purchase them at the airport. Pets are permitted in Lufthansa lounges but should be kept within their transport carrier or container throughout.
Delta Air Lines
Delta allows small dogs, cats and household birds to travel in the cabin as long as they fit inside a ventilated pet carrier beneath the seat ahead. Eligible pets must be ten weeks old for domestic flights, 16 weeks old if travelling to the U.S. from other countries, or 15 weeks old if travelling to the E.U. Pets in cabin carriers count as one item of carry-on luggage. Some restrictions are based on destination and can be reviewed via the airline's pet travel policy. Cabin pet reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and early contact with Delta Reservations is advised.
Trained service animals and their equipment can travel in the cabin for free with the completion of a U.S. DOT service Animal Air Travel Form. Exceptions apply to dogs travelling to the U.S. from high-risk countries. All U.S. Military or Active U.S. State Department Foreign Service Officers and their spouses with active transfer orders may check their pets as baggage for a fee when travelling on active transfer orders. Please see the Delta website for policy and restrictions. Further restrictions apply when travelling to the U.K.
Cats, dogs, household birds, guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters are accepted as checked baggage on domestic flights – except snub-nosed cats and dogs. All other animals must be shipped as Delta Cargo.
Strict embargos apply to international travel with pets. However, flights with select pets to and from the United Kingdom will be accepted as pet cargo under the U.K. Pet Travel Scheme. For pets to other countries in the E.U., additional restrictions apply.
The Finnish flag carrier allows a range of pets on its aircraft. However, some destination countries may limit the animal breeds, so research thoroughly before booking your pet. Small pets able to travel with their owners in the cabin include small dogs, cats, rabbits, tortoises and hedgehogs so long as they do not weigh greater than 8 kilograms, including the carrier, which must also fit beneath the seat in front – though no pets can travel in the long-haul Business Class cabin due to space limitations. All assistance and service dogs will travel in the cabin free of charge, regardless of their size and weight, but emotional support dogs are not permitted in the cabin and must travel in the hold.
Larger dogs and ferrets will travel in the hold of the passenger aircraft, but the combined weight of the dog and container must be lower than 75 kilogrammes. If this weight is exceeded, the pet must travel as Finnair-operated cargo. Some destination countries will also stipulate that pets travel in cargo regardless of weight. One cabin pet carrier is permitted per passenger; typically, no more than two pets are allowed in the cabin per flight.
Fees are paid before travel and vary depending on the size of the pet and destination. Typically, pet transportation in the cabin costs approximately €120 each way and pets in the hold cost around €600 each way. Refer to the Finnair Cargo webpage for cargo fees. Read the Finnair FAQs of travelling with animals.
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