Airline Pet Travel

Airline pet travel, although it may seem traumatic to a caring pet owner, whether in-cabin or cargo, is oftentimes the best way (or the only way) to travel. Dogs, cats and all pets get to their destination quicker and as safely as possible. It should be noted that millions of animals travel safely aboard aircraft every year. Airline personnel make every effort to handle these animals with the care they deserve.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets and enforces regulations for the transportation of live animals. These regulations apply to the pet owner, the shipper, as well as to the airlines. If you decide to transport your dog or cat by air, there are some things to check for in order to be in compliance with applicable laws, and to assure the safest and most comfortable trip for your pet.

If you are traveling with a smaller dog or cat, generally under 13 pounds and 12″ from floor to front shoulder, you should be able to bring the pet into the cabin with you. Always check with the airlines to find out the dimensions under the seat in front of you. An airline compliant carrier is a must. It should have a waterproof bottom, secure fasteners, (zippers) and ventilation on all sides. (These carriers are available at PetTravelStore.com.)

If you cannot accompany your pet, or they are too large to fly in the cabin, dogs and cats typically are transported as cargo or as checked baggage. Sometimes these terms create confusion, but both describe humane means of shipping animals. What is important to know is that you may only transport your pet as checked baggage if you are a passenger traveling on the same flight as your pet and the combined weight of your pet and its crate is under about 70 pounds. (This weight varies by airline.) If flying cargo, your pet may travel unaccompanied, either through the regular cargo channels or through an especially expedited delivery service that several airlines have developed. Many airline cargo departments have specialists in the movement of animals who can assist you with answers to your questions. They are trained to handle your pet with care and are experienced in doing so.

What is important for you to know is that pets traveling as cargo are transported in the same pressurized holds as those in the checked baggage system and this area is temperature and pressure regulated similar to the cabin.

Each airline has its own pet policy, but one thing remains the same. You should call the airline before you book and tell them that you are traveling with a pet. Most airlines will only allow a certain number of pets in the cabin. Additionally, there will be a cost to bring your pet in the cabin with you. If your pet is traveling unaccompanied, then contact your airline’s cargo department.

For more tips on traveling with a pet on an airline, visit airline travel tips.

For airline pet policies for every airline that we can find worldwide, visit airline pet policies.


Comments

Airline Pet Travel — 168 Comments

  1. Dan – according to New Zealand’s regulations, “you’ll need to send in supporting information with your import permit application to show that your dog meets the MPI documentation requirements for an assistance dog.
    For guide dogs: provide documentation from a member school of the International Federation of Guide Dog Schools to show that your dog has been trained and certified as a guide dog.
    For other assistance dogs: provide documentation to show that your dog has been trained and certified as an assistance dog by a recognised and accredited national or international organisation. Examples of recognised and accredited assistance dog organisations can be found through Assistance Dogs International. A letter from a doctor or therapist is not enough to meet this requirement.
    Assistance Dogs International website (https://assistancedogsinternational.org/)
    Provide proof of your dog’s service
    You’ll also need to supply documentation from the relevant organisation, confirming your assistance dog has been in your service and used in your daily life (or under the supervision of the organisation) for at least the 6 months before the arrival date.”
    As for the airlines, some US-based airlines will limit the flight to 8 hours and others will require that the flight (or portion thereof) involves the United States. Changing airline companies along the way will mean that your Lab will need to clear customs and enter the layover country.
    Susan

  2. Hello,

    We are travelling to New Zealand from Canada next summer to live for a year. We are looking at how best to transport our black lab, who will be trained as an emotional support dog. I have read some carriers do not allow pets to fly in cabin for flights over 8 hours. Is it likely that there would be flights over 8 hours en route to NZ? How would i deal with a potential change in airline carrier during our trip? Thanks in advance.

  3. Kyntia – your first consideration is finding an airline that flies the entire route to the destination airport in Canada. Airline companies will not interline live animals, so, if your cat changes airline companies along the way, then an agent will be needed to claim and recheck your cat in the layover airport. Air Canada may allow you to book transport; however, it does not appear that they fly the entire route. Know that, it is not the airline that owns the route, it is the airline that operates the route that is important.

    Another consideration is the duration of your route. It is a 20 hour flight and a rest stop will likely be required by your airline. Although, depending on available facilities at the layover airport, they may be able to care for your cat or not, and this is something you will want to discuss with them.

    Cathay and Philippine Airlines fly the route to Toronto and you can contact their cargo department to discuss.
    Susan

  4. Hi there! I’m a new university student, trying to fly my domestic cat from Singapore to Canada. I will be unable to accompany her, and so she has to fly unaccompanied. Do you know of any airlines that fly cats internationally and unaccompanied? (Preferably without having to go through an agent or pet mover service)
    Thanks,
    Kyntia

  5. Petra – Lufthansa will allow them in CR 82 compliant pet crates. KLM and Air France will also fly them. Try to book a non-stop into the US as layovers on AF will require rechecking.
    Susan

  6. Hi,
    do you know of any airlines that allow transport of staffordshire bull terrier for transatlantic flight from Europe to the US?
    Thans, Petra

  7. ZK – due to requirements of all commercial airlines, live animals must enter South Africa as air cargo. This class of service is much more expensive than in-cabin or checked baggage. The challenge will be finding an airline that will fly your cat as air cargo without requiring that an agent book the transport. (most do). You may be able to reduce the cost by doing all the pre-travel requirements yourself and meet your agent for the check-in at the cargo facility.

    An import permit is required; however, many blood tests that are required for dogs are not required for cats. You can review regulations to import your cat to South Africa here and there are links to further instructions and forms if you need them: https://www.pettravel.com/immigration/SouthAfrica.cfm.
    Susan

  8. I am wanting to transport my cat from Texas, United States to Johannesburg, South Africa. She is a domestic long hair cat weighing around 10 Lbs. Does anyone have any advice on how to arrange this myself? All the agencies I have contacted are charging exorbitant prices so I am looking at alternative options. Any advice is appreciated.

  9. Michelle – did you try Turkish Airlines? They fly your breed; however, you will need to watch out for temperatures. Persian cats and other snub-nosed breeds must fly in the cargo hold at cooler temperatures. Try to find a night flight when temperatures are not as high.
    Susan

  10. Hi, I’m a teacher living in Kuwait and will be moving to Turkey to teach next year. I became a long term foster for two Persian cats. Logistics are becoming a problem and I’ve just recently heard that because of their noses they are restricted when it comes to flying cargo and in the cabin. Unfortunately, I will have to leave Kuwait as my residency will expire. So the cats would have to either summer in Turkey or be shipped later. o_O

  11. Liza – unfortunately, we do not know of any airline that will fly turtles in the cabin. The price that Iberia quoted you was likely for air cargo which is the class of service that most airlines will require that your turtles fly under. The best scenario would be for them to fly as checked baggage which is less expensive than air cargo. Turkish Airlines may,,,not sure.
    Susan

  12. I’m looking for an airline which will allow me to travel with my 2 yellow belly turtles in a cabin. I’ll travel from Florida to Hungary. I’ve found Iberia Airlines but the ticket would be $3000!only one way?! Does anyone know about other airlines which I can take my 2 lovely turtles with me? Or any other options would help…please

  13. JLynne – that is a question for your airline. If your airline does not offer an option online to make a reservation and pay for your pet, then you may want to suggest that to them. Unfortunately, we do not know of any airline that offers expedited service when checking in pets.
    Susan

  14. Is there a way to speed up the check in process with a pet in cargo. It took us an hour or more each way waiting for them to finish checking in our small dog that we took with us from the U.S. to Mexico and back.

  15. HI Linda – your Airedale must fly back to the UK as air cargo which is one reason why the cost is more than you paid to come to Canada. Air cargo is a more expensive way to fly as opposed to checked baggage. Many airlines will require that an agent book the transport when a live animal is flying as air cargo. You may want to contact Air Canada’s cargo department to see if that is the case for this airline if you are considering it as a means of transport.

    As for your Airedale’s rabies vaccination, there is no need for re-vaccinate as long as you have rabies history from the time the microchip was implanted. The first vaccination after the chip is implanted should have been a one year rabies vaccination and all boosters after that vaccination should have been administered before the previous vaccination had expired. Your pup will also need a tapeworm treatment administered by a licensed veterinarian and a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel for the airline. Ask your airline whether the certificate must be an Annex IV and whether it needs CFIA endorsement.
    Susan

  16. I am taking my 28 month old Airedale back to England. She was born there and has an EU passport. She will be travelling on Air Canada to LHR, March 25th. Her 3 year rabies vaccine is good until Jan. 2020. Does she have to have a booster rabies shot? I am Canadian and will not go over until May. She is registered in England and Canada. Please advise me exactly what she needs .. to come to Canada it was so simple .. she needed a rabies shot. I can not believe the money they are charging .. seems just a cash grab.

  17. Rachelle – the airlines will always request a release of liability when flying a pet in the cargo hold. By signing the acclimation certificate, your veterinarian is attesting that your pet has an adequate coat and is accustomed to cold temperatures. Know that the risk to your pet is not while airborne. It is during holding and loading periods on the ground. This time can vary according to your airline’s check-in time and also how much cargo they have to load. (live animals are always loaded last). You can speak to your airline and verify conditions in their cargo facility in which live animals are held, whether they are taken to the plane in closed vehicles, and also how far in advance your dog must be checked in. Contact the cargo department directly for this information.
    Susan

  18. Virgin Atlantic Certificate of acclimation for cold weather. Veterinarian Certification request:
    “I hereby certify that the animal in this shipment is to the best of my knowledge acclimated to the air temperature stated below based on generally accepted temperature standards for the age, condition and breed of the animal.” Acclimated Temp range 20 Degrees F to 45 Degrees F. The certificate doesn’t specify a time limit for this possible exposure.
    My Vet has concerns about subjecting themselves to this requirement. Legal repercussions? Veterinarian’s Oath- protection of animals, prevention of animal suffering.
    Red Flag – is this industry standard
    Flying my pets to London from Seattle in less than 2 weeks. Should I be concerned? Thoughts? Thanks, Rachelle

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