Flying with pets

Posted on February 14, 2018 by Guest Writer

Going on holiday doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your furry friend at home. In fact, these days flying with your beloved pets is perfectly possible.

It’s also a great relief that in many countries, quarantine regulations no longer require your pet to be locked up for six months before you are finally reunited.

Rules and regulations

These are generally quite straightforward and a quick online search of each country’s requirements provides specific information on how you can be prepared for flying.

Normal check-in requirements are:

  • Pet passport and vaccination papers to prove that your pet was vaccinated against rabies three months before travelling.
  • A carrier that your pet is able to stand up in. If the carrier is small enough, it’s possible for them to travel in the cabin with you just as long it doesn’t exceed any of your airlines requirements.
  • Identification tags and a vet’s certificate confirming he/she is fit for travel.


Regulations regarding rabies vary depending on where you’re travelling, so make sure you take a look at each country’s requirements before you book.

Countries are divided into three classifications: rabies-free; rabies-controlled; and high-rabies. Bear in mind that if your pet has lay-overs of more than two hours en route or you are changing airlines, you’ll need to be aware of the quarantine requirements of each country you will be clearing customs in.
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Where will your pet sit?

In the cabin – Some airlines like Swiss Air and Air France allow cats and small dogs to travel in the aircraft cabin with you (usually to a maximum weight of 22lbs (9.98kg) including the carrier, with dimensions of 17″L x 12.5″W x 8.5″H). Your pet and carrier will usually be counted as your hand-luggage – simply store it under the seat in front of you.

In cargo – In general, pets weighing over 22lbs (9.98kg) with their carriers are kept in a pressure and temperature controlled compartment, separated from the luggage area. You will need to check with the airline what its specific size and weight requirements are. Pets are last to be loaded onto the plane and first to come off so you won’t usually have to wait long to see them again. Dedicated airline staff ensure your pet is safe all the way.

The cost to bring your pet varies greatly depending on the airline you choose. For example, American Airlines currently charge $125 per carrier in the cabin and $200 per carrier in cargo. Meanwhile, Swiss Air apply fees in accordance with the size of the pet carrier and your destination.

Flying to the UK

Not all UK airports accept pet arrivals but the ones that do will normally expect them (cats, dogs and ferrets) to be kept in the hold of the plane. The UK Government website provides a full list of airlines and airports you can use along with where you can fly in from. They also give details on which rail and sea routes you can take your pets on if flying is not an option.

Pet travel tips

  • Get your pets’ microchips fitted BEFORE they have their rabies vaccinations – if not, the jab won’t be registered.
  • Choosing direct flights avoids undue stress.
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) advises against pet tranquilisers or medication, unless they are especially prescribed by your vet.
  • Don’t feed your pet four to six hours before flying.
  • Make sure your pet’s collar can’t get stuck on the carrier.
  • Give your pet plenty of time to get used to the carrier before travelling.