How to Travel with a Pet by Plane

16 March 2017

Travel Information

If you need to travel with your beloved pet, there are lots of things to think about and several procedures and guidelines to follow. 

Before the Trip

Before your trip, you will need to schedule a visit to your vet to check your pet’s health and fitness, and to check for fleas or ticks. Many countries have strict requirements about your pet having the right vaccination before entering their borders.  Wise pet owners who travel with pets also ensure they are microchipped, which will help locate them if the unthinkable happens and they get lost.


Vet

Will you be travelling domestically or internationally?  All countries require dogs to have proof of rabies vaccination and most require a health certificate from a vet.  It is essential to research the pet regulations of your particular destination well in advance to give you enough time to arrange and prepare the required paperwork and health checks.

Read also: 30 Things to Do before Travelling Abroad

Will your pet be travelling by car, boat or plane? Probably the most challenging mode of transport for your pet is by air.  It is important to choose an airline that serves the entire route from start to finish. You should then look up their pet policy so you know the rules you will need to comply with. Will they allow your dog or cat to fly in the cabin with you? What are the restrictions? Or will your pet have to travel in the cargo hold? Check whether the route has any stopovers. If a stopover exceeds 2 hours your pet won’t be able to travel in the cargo hold, as this is the maximum stopover permitted.  There are basic rules that all airlines apply, such as any pet travelling in the cabin must be accompanied by an adult.

If you are travelling internationally, your pet will need a pet passport. Apply for your pet’s passport way ahead of time, at least six months.  Many countries have different quarantine policies that may take months to process. Another important thing to obtain before you go is taking out reliable travel insurance for yourself. 


Pet passport

You also need to book pet-friendly accommodation in your chosen destination, which could be tricky if you are looking for a hotel. Finally, you would need to get an IATA (International Air Transport Association) compliant pet carrier or crate with ventilation. It is a good idea to acclimatise your pet a few weeks before the actual trip to their carrier.

During the Trip

One of the challenges for pet owners who travel with pets in an international commercial flight is how to keep them calm during the flight.  There is really no way of knowing how your pet will react to air travel, so preparation is important.  Your pet should get used to being in their carrier, so make sure you practice a few weeks prior to the actual trip. 

Be sure to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare so that you have a smooth and unhurried check-in with your pet.  This is likely to take longer than usual, so don’t add to your stress by cutting your time too short. A mad dash for security will not help keep your pet calm.  If your pet is travelling with you in the cabin or by excess baggage, the check-in will be at the passenger terminal.  If the pet is travelling through cargo, you would need to check in your pet following the carriers cargo check in instructions.


Pet carrier

For the flight itself, bring treats and an old item of clothing with your scent on it to help keep your pet calm in their carrier.  Airline regulations do not allow pets to be completely removed from their carrier during the flight.  However, you are allowed to unzip the carrier to give treats and stroke your pets. Do not over feed your pet with treats during the trip; just give them enough to keep them happy and satisfied.

Read also: FCO Travel Guidance: Personal Food, Plant and Animal Product Imports

If your pet is 11 inches tall or 15 pounds heavy, they will not be allowed to stay in the cabin.  They will have to stay in the airline cargo hold.  The key to safe pet travel is to get a good, sturdy pet crate with goodWhether you are flying with your pet or it is flying without you, it is important to choose an airline that serves the entire route from beginning to end. After finding your airline, you will need to know their pet policies. Will the airline allow your dog or cat to fly in the cabin with you? What are the restrictions? Will your pet need to travel in the cargo hold? Find answers to all your questions below when you click the down arrow next to the GO button and find airline pet policies for your dog, cat or other animal.Travelling with ventilation and a waterproof bottom.

Keep your pet hydrated during the flight by adding a water bowl inside. Also food dishes which should be accessible from the outside.  If your animal requires food at certain times of the day, attach a food schedule on the outside of the crate, along with ample food supply. The crate should have the pet’s name, the owner’s name and mobile number, as well as veterinary information and characteristic/temperament issues, if there’s any.  Ensure you thoroughly read and print out your airline’s pet policy just in case any problems arise. Most airline cargo personnel are especially trained to handle pets.

Happy cat

Ideally the best travel advice for your pet is to book a direct, nonstop flight to avoid transfers and stopovers.

Travelling with your pet can be trouble free, but only if you avoid all the potential obstacles by being properly prepared and aware of the rules and regulations that apply to your chosen destination. 

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