Most pets travelling abroad are transported on planes. This ensures that your dog or cat is contained within their airline-approved carrier for as little time as possible. In this way pet flights are designed to minimize any stress on your best friend.
That said, flying with pets means complying with a range of rules and regulations which must be met if your pet is to be accepted into the plane. Furthermore each airline and each location has their own specific rules meaning that great care must be taken to ensure that all policies are adhered to.
Where Do Pets Travel on the Plane?
Depending on the airline chosen to ship your pet it may be transported in one of three different manners.
A very limited number of airlines accept small dogs and cats as carry-on luggage. Typically your pet must be confined to its travel kennel at all times during the flight, and the carrier must reside beneath the seat in front of you. The few airlines which accept pets in their passenger cabin typically only accept a very small number of animals per flight and so pre-booking is essential.
A more typical arrangement for pet flights is that animals are transported within a special section of the plane cargo hold. These areas are pressurized and temperature-controlled so your dog or cat will enjoy the same levels of comfort as in the passenger cabin. In many cases this is the only option for larger pets such as medium and large breed dogs.
In many instances, such as all British Airways flights, pets are transported in the dark which many airlines claim help to keep them calm and encourage sleep during the flight.
Note that it isn’t always necessary for you yourself to catch the same flight as your pet; animal handling teams will be present at each end are fully trained in keeping your pets in top condition.
Some airlines accept only assistance animals on their passenger planes, and instead insist on sending pets via a cargo plane. Once again they will benefit from a climate-controlled and pressurized environment to ensure they arrive in the peak of health.
Rules for Pet Flights
While each airline maintains their own individual rules for accepting dogs and cats onto flights there are some general recommendations that will apply in most cases.
International travel with pets is naturally a paper-work heavy operation. In many cases it will be necessary to ensure that your pet is appropriately vaccinated and micro-chipped. A veterinary health certificate is typically required too. In terms of pet flights then it is important to check carefully on the requirements well in advance so these can be appropriately met.
Airline-Approved Travel Carrier
Almost without exception pets must be concealed within an airline-approved carrier for the duration of the flight. These carriers help to keep your pet safe and protected, as well as making their transportation as easy as possible.
You will find there are strict guidelines regarding:
Dimensions – An appropriate travel kennel will enable your pet to stand up straight without touching the top, to lie down fully and to turn around within their container. This is to comply with strict animal care policies.
We have a handy guide to measuring your pet here.
Further information on sizing can be sought from individual airlines (see later) though the International Air Travel Association (IATA) provides a handy guide to sizing at: http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/live-animals/Documents/pet-container-requirements.pdf
Solid Base – A solid base ensures that your pet is fully protected and also keeps other cargo safe from any spills and leaks.
Ventilation – Ensuring an appropriate level of ventilation is critical to the well-being of your pet. For this reason most airlines insist on pet carriers with ventilation on more than one side. In this way, even if your pet’s carrier is located next to another item of cargo the free movement of fresh air will still be possible.
Note that PBS Pet Travel are happy to provide airline-approved travel kennels. More information is available here.
Sedatives – While recommended by some vets for car travel and suchlike, very few airlines will accept a sedated animal. The reason is that changes in pressure at height have caused problems in the past. As a result, sedatives should be avoided on the day of travel.
Water Containers – The risk of dehydration on a long flight is a very real possibility. As a result many airlines insist that a spill-proof water container be included. This should be filled before the flight commences to ensure a suitable volume of water is present.
Absorbent Bedding – In the unfamiliar surroundings of a cargo hold pets sometimes create mess. Absorbent bedding ensures that any accidents are quickly soaked up, making for a more comfortable flight for all parties.
Age – Due to concerns over dehydration and the fragility of pets most airlines will only transport animals of a suitable age. This varies by airline, though typically places the minimum age at 8-12 weeks for cats and dogs. Owners of puppies or kittens hoping to make use of a pet flight should therefore carefully check these restrictions.
Health – Only pets in the best of health should be considered well enough for travel. While most airlines will require a veterinary health check, pets may still be declined on the day of travel due to sickness. Keeping your pet in the best of health in the time leading up to a pet flight should therefore be considered a priority.
Pet Flight Recommendations
In addition to the strict guidelines set out for your own benefit there are also a number of additional recommendations which can make your pet flight even more enjoyable for your pet.
In addition to the paperwork requirements set down by the airlines and immigration there are a number of other documents which can be useful to bring. These will make dealing with any kind of emergency on arrival much easier.
Firstly, consider bringing your pet’s entire medical record, including details of any medications or illnesses suffered in the past. Secondly bring along the paperwork registering your pet’s microchip, which can help proving ownership of an escapee easier. Lastly consider bringing colour photos of your pet which can also be helpful for identifying a missing pet in your new location.
Most cats and dogs travel best on an empty stomach. Those animals which travel soon after a meal are more likely to suffer from stomach upsets; something which will be far from pleasant for your pet. As a result most airlines recommend feeding your pet no less than 5 hours before the time of your pet flight by which time much of this food should have cleared their system.
How to Arrange Pet Flights
As you can no doubt see by now there are a large number of factors that need to be taken into account when relocating your pet abroad. From the logistics of which airline and which flight to put your pet on, to whether you will fly on the same plane or not, to all the necessary vaccinations and paperwork, not to mention how to keep your pet safe, secure and healthy during the flight. To help we’ve also created a list to help on how to book pet flights.
For this reason many expats and travellers opt to use the services of a pet travel company like PBS Pet Travel. We will act as your guide through the pet relocation process, ensuring that the whole process goes as smoothly as possible. We can provide airline-approved pet carriers, arrange for veterinary visits and certificates to be issued. We can even advise on flights and book your pet on.
Please also note that some airlines won’t accept pets for flights from pet owners; some, like Virgin Australia, will only deal directly with a limited number of experienced pet travel agents.
If you’d rather remove the risks associated with complying with the various regulations and ensure your pet’s flight is as smooth and enjoyable as possible then why not contact us for a free quote today?
Airline Policies for Pets
Alternatively, if you’d rather it is possible to arrange dog flights and cat flights for yourself. While it would impossible to provide details on every airline available below we have collected together some of the most salient points from major UK airlines. Also, remember to check out our location guides to see what paperwork will be required on arrival.
Please check out:
- Pet Travel to Europe
- Pet Travel to the USA
- Pet Travel Australia
- Pet Relocation Hong Kong
- Pet Travel UAE (including Dubai and Abu Dhabi)
- Rest of the world
PBS Pet Travel are proud to announce that thanks to our “Pets on Jets” service we can arrange for dogs and cats – as well as passengers – to be transported by private plane where required. You might be surprised by how reasonable the costs of a private plane really are, particularly when the costs are divided by a number of friends or family members.
We have a long and established relationship with British Airways and are one of their preferred pet transporters. While assistance pets may travel within the passenger cabin all others are shipped securely and comfortably within the cargo hold in a darkened environment. We have always found British Airways to offer exceptional levels of care and service to pet owners.
More information is available at: https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/travel-assistance/travelling-with-pets
While some Virgin airlines do not accept any kinds of pets, Virgin Atlantic are happy to transport pets in their cargo hold. Note that Virgin Atlantic do not currently accept snub-nosed dogs such as pugs.
More information is available at: http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/gb/en/travel-information/flying-with-pets.html
EasyJet does not accept any animals on their planes besides assistance animals.
Monarch is happy to transport pets within their cargo hold. Please note that spaces are highly limited (just 6 animals in total per flight) and no pets are accepted for travel on weekends due to space limitations.
More information is available at: http://www.monarch.co.uk/faq/flights/flying-with-children-and-pets/flying-with-animals
Flybe accepts assistance dogs within the main passenger cabin though other pets must travel within the cargo hold. Note that dogs and cats aged under 12 weeks will not be accepted under any circumstances.
More information is available at: http://www.flybe.com/baggage/cargo.htm
As a budget carrier, RyanAir only accepts assistance dogs.
More information is available at: https://www.ryanair.com/en/terms-and-conditions/regulations-guidedogs/
Still Got Questions?
If you still have questions relating to pet flights then PBS Pet Travel are here to help. As proud members of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) we are ideally placed to help you safely and securely transport your pet to anywhere in the world. If you would like to find out more about how we can help then please just get in contact today.