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Travelling by air with your dog

some handy tips and advice on travelling by air with your dog
If you are planning on flying with your dog there are some factors to consider before booking your flights. Air travel can be extremely stressful for us humans and even more so for our dogs. There is a great deal of preparation to do beforehand, and yes, there are some safety risks involved. But sometimes, dog owners have no other choice but to fly with their dogs. Some dog owners decide to emigrate to other countries and wish to take their loving dog with them.Some like to take their pets along with them on long extended holidays abroad.
In the UK the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows dogs and cats to travel between certain countries and certain UK aiports without the need to go through months of quarantine.

UK Dog Friendly Airlines

Most airlines are happy for you to travel by air with your dog. Each airline will have a different pet policy in place, so you will need to check with each airline individually. The airlines that do allow pets to travel may let you take your small dog into the passenger cabin with you as long as they are in a travel carrier. Large dogs will always be held within the cargo hold.
Some of the top UK airlines that are dog friendly are British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Continental, Jet Blue, KLM, Lufthansa to name but a few. Also check out our full list of dog friendly airlines that travel to and from the UK.
Some of the UK airlines that do not take pets include Easyjet and Ryan Air.

Cabin or Cargo Hold?

Some airlines are very pet friendly, and the others are not. Airline companies vary and may have different policies when it comes to travelling with your pets. Some airlines differ on where your dog will be placed when you fly. Some will allow your small dog to travel with you on the plane whereas larger dogs will be placed in the cargo hold. It’s a good idea to check out the different airline companies before you buy your ticket. Below is some useful information on the difference between your dog travelling in the cabin or in cargo.


small pet carrier maybe allowed in the airplane cabin
Dogs under 15 pounds are usually allowed in the cabin of a passenger plane. Any bigger than that then they will have to be placed within the cargo hold. If your dog is allowed in the cabin with you, you must be flying with your dog. Some pet friendly airlines also have a limit of how many pets can travel within the passenger cabin on each flight.
Your dog will also have to be placed in an airline approved pet carrier. They will have to remain inside the carrier for the duration of the flight. They must never be taken out to be petted or to stretch their legs. There will also be a combined weight limit of your dog and the carrier. Generally, the combined weight of your pet and carrier cannot be more than 15 pounds (6.8 kg) and the carrier must fit underneath the seat in front of you.
If you have two small dogs, they are usually allowed to share the same carrier as long as there is enough room for them both.
The airline may not ask you to pay for your dog’s airfare until you check in, but you MUST book a space for your dog well in advance.

Cargo Hold

larger dogs have to travel in the airplane cargo hold
If your dog weighs over 15 pounds, and it cannot be placed inside a carrier under the seat in front of you, then they will havee to be placed in the cargo hold. Many dog owners worry about being seperated from the dogs and pets and are also concerned about the level of comfort they will get there.
You will be pleased to know that the process of your pets travelling in cargo is done with extreme professional care and attention. There are strict guidlines that must be follwed by you and the airline staff to ensure that your dog has a safe and comfortable journey when being placed in the cargo hold.
Take a look at the following video made by the American airline company Midwest Airlines. You will see that every care is taken to make sure your dog flies securely and safely.
Your responsibilities as the owner of your dog are as follows:
  • You must drop off your dog at the approriate time, usually no more than 4 hours before the flight
  • Sign the approriate documents to state that you have offerred your dog food and water within those four hours before dropping them off.
  • You need tp provide the airline with the appropriate documentation including a pre flight health certificate, pet passport, vaccination papes, which have been completed by a professional vet no more than 10 days prior to departure.
Your airline approved pet carrier must:
  • Be airline approved or be expected to safely and comfortably contain the dog without causing suffering or injury.
  • It should have handles to allow the handlers to carry the carrier without coming into contact or touching your dog.
  • It should be designed so it will keep level at all times and not flip over.
  • It should have a leak proof bottom incase of any toilet accidents inside.
  • It should also be able to be opened easily in case of emergency.
  • The carrier must have good ventilation and be labelled including a “LIVE ANIMALS” tag
  • It should always be in a clean and sanitized condition everytime it is used.
  • Be big enough for your pet to move around inside. It should be able to stand inside the carrier without touching the sides. Allow for extra space for bedding and blankets when buying your carrier.
you will need an airline approved pet carrier if flying with your dog
If you are planning to travel by plane with your dog, you will need to purchase the correct type of pet carrier. Whether it is going to be placed within the cabin or within cargo hold, it will have to comply with airline guidelines. It’s best to measure your dog’s length and height when they are standing. All pet carriers must allow your dog to be able to stand, turn around and lie down inside.
It should be well ventilated and have a food and water supply that will not spill or flip over. If your pet is going into cargo hold, the food and water supply must be acessible from the outside of the carrier.
The door of the carrier must have a secure fastening so your dog cannot escape from inside. Your pets nose or claws must NOT be able to fit through any part of the carrier or it’s door mesh.
Here is a helpful video on how to measure your dog so that you can obtain the correct size of carrier for your flight.
Your carrier must also be prepared for the flight so that the handlers know there is a dog inside. Attach a label that includes your name, contact details and destination address in addition to a LIVE ANIMALS sticker. It’s also a good idea to put your dogs name on the crate, so that the handlers can talk to your dog if your dog becomes distressed. You must also prepare your carrier so that food and water can be easily given to your dog without having to open the carrier.
Below are some pet carrier essentials to be aware of, especially if they are to be stored within the cargo hold. If your pet carrie does not fit within the airlines guidelines, your pet may be refused travel.
Some airline pet carrier essentials:
  • Minimum requirement for cats ex USA and Canada is a series 200 kennel. (200 series = 27″ x 20″ x 19″, 68cm x 50cm x 48cm)
  • Minimum requirement for snub nosed dogs and cats is a 10% larger container than the minimum.
  • The container must be strong enough to protect your pet during transport, be secure enough to contain it and have sufficient ventilation on all four sides, to ensure the air quality in the container will not deteriorate.
  • The door must be secured in such a manner that it will not open accidentally or your pet cannot open it during handling and transport.
  • Your pet’s nose and paws should not be able to fit through any ventilation opening or door mesh.
  • The container must have a water pot and a food container accessible from the outside.
  • The water pot must be secured and in proportion to the size of the pet but not take up too much of the floor space.
  • Fibreboard, wire mesh and wicker containers are not suitable for air transportation.
  • These dimension are minimum internal dimensions, please allow extra room if you are placing a blanket or bedding into the kennel. Pets must be able to stand , sit erect without touching the top of the kennel.
For the cargo hold section where your dog or pet will be placed, there are very strict rules and regulations that the airline must follow. Your dog or pet will be placed in a designated area within the cargo hold and NOT be be placed with other the types of cargo.
The cargo space in which the pets are contained must:
  • Be designed, constructed and maintained in a manner that at all times protects the health and well-being of the animals.
  • It has to ensure the animals safety and comfort.
  • Prevent the entry of engine exhaust.
  • It will have a supply of air that is sufficient for normal breathing.
  • Be heated or cooled as necessary to maintain an ambient temperature and humidity that ensures the health and well-being of the animals.
  • The area must be pressurized.
Even the cargo handling staff dealing with live animals are highly trained. They too have to follow certain rules and regulations when dealing with your pet during cargo handling and during the flight.
The Airline handlers must:
  • Observe and check up on your pets no less than once every four hours or upon landing and departing. They must ensure that all the minimum standards are being met.
  • Offer food to the animals at least once every 24 hours and water at least every 12 hours.
  • Arrange any veterinary care if your pet should need it.

Try not to worry about your dog

your dog will be safe with the airline animal cargo handlers
It’s a good idea to ask for the airline to provide you with their pet policy in full detail, as all airlines are different. The above information is a guide only. But you can see by the regulations that they do their very best to ensure your dog has a comfortable and safe flight.
All airlines do transport animals on a daily basis. Each airline have dedicated and trained staff who will transport your dog on and off the plane with as much care and attention as they can offer. To safeguard the wellbeing of your pet, all animals are handled in full compliance with the IATA Live Animal Regulations (LAR) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Even though your pet dog will be held in the cargo hold, do not worry, they are placed within a designated clean, warm and ventilated areas and do not come into contact with other forms of cargo.
There are some factors to consider before flying with your dog, and these should be followed. Below is some useful tips and a handy checklist to help you plan a flight with your dog.
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