Pets on a plane


The transport of pets by plane is a topic that interests mainly owners of pets such as dogs and cats. Currently, our pets can travel with us, not only by cars or trains, but also by sky-high transport.

For this reason, more and more people decide to travel by plane with a pet, whether it is caused by moving to another country or simply by longer holidays. This type of trip is not stress-free and you need to prepare for it, which we will write about later in this article.

Basic information about transporting animals by plane

First of all, be aware that not all airlines allow pets to travel by plane. Additionally, you can take a limited number of living creatures on board the machine. Some dog breeds and animal species may also be refused by the carrier.

When it comes to low-cost airlines, they usually prohibit the carriage of any animals on board. Among them are the most popular ones, i.e. Ryanair, Wizzair or Easyjet.

The only exception for them is guide dogs for the blind.

On the other hand, Norwegian allows for short flights to transport animals on board, and on long flights – only in the hold.

Animal transport by plane / What documents and formalities?
Animal transport by plane / What documents and formalities?

Therefore, pet owners usually only have scheduled flights. In this case, the airlines meet the expectations, but for an appropriate fee. In addition, there are internal regulations of a given carrier, which determines where and how it will take our pet.

It is the airline that decides whether our pet will fly in a container in the luggage hold, or let it on board the plane, in a special bag intended for transporting animals.

For example, Lufthansa will take our pet either on board or to the luggage compartment, depending on its weight and height. In the case of dangerous breeds of dogs, it will also impose additional restrictions.

Air France will likewise take smaller pets on board the plane and larger ones in the hold. SAS, on the other hand, requires individual consent to transport your pet. British Airways, on the other hand, will only transport the animal via the cargo option. KLM covers all options and Emirates will not transport your pet on board the aircraft, but either by cargo or in the hold.

Ways of transporting animals by plane

As we mentioned a bit above, there are three options for transporting animals:

  • on board the plane, but placed in a special bag or backpack intended for the transport of animals
  • in the hold, usually in a special container
  • in the hold, in the container, but as cargo

Usually, you can take a dog, cat or other animal acceptable to the carrier on board, up to a weight of about 8-10 kg. Interestingly, this limit applies to the weight of the pet along with the carrier, from which it will not be able to leave during the entire flight. Even the dimensions of these containers, bags or travel suitcases are also strictly defined by the airlines.

In general, they must fit under the passenger seat, but it’s best to check the specific size with the carrier on their website.

It is similar in the case of transporting animals in the luggage hold or cargo hold. A special container must be large enough for our pet to stand, turn and lie down freely in it. Inside you should put absorbent material and a container with water. The container must be ventilated on three sides.

All of this is regulated by the IATA Live Animals Regulations.

Usually people have bad associations with the phrase – transport in the luggage compartment, but without fear the animals are placed in a separate part under the sleeper. Nobody will put our pet between the suitcases like an object.

As for cargo transportation, these are separate flights by cargo planes. Rather, they are not used in the case of pets, due to their relatively high price. This type of transport is most often used by horse owners or zoos to transport their animals.

It also requires special documents and confirmations, and is also subject to additional restrictions.

How much does it cost to transport animals by plane?

It all depends, of course, on the specific carrier. Prices for transporting animals vary, so it is always worth checking the amount with the appropriate airline before departure. For example, in Lufthansa it looks like this – for a flight within Europe and the Middle East, we will pay 50 euros for a pet up to 8 kg, transported on board the plane. On the same route, but in the luggage compartment, the journey will cost 100 Euro for a medium-sized animal and 200 Euro for a large dog, for example.

In turn, on international flights, we will pay 70 euros for a pet on board, and 150 or even 300 euros in the luggage hold.

What animals will we not transport by plane?

As mentioned before, not every animal will be allowed on the plane, and this includes both the deck and the hold, or even the cargo hold. You definitely need to check whether they will let your pet on the flight, if we are the owners of breeds belonging to these dangerous. The problem may be with Rottweilers, Bull Terriers, Argentinian Dogos, Bulldogs or Caucasian Shepherds.

What is more, we can meet with the refusal to take dogs or cats, the breed of which is characterized by short, flattened faces. Such anatomical structure causes that these animals often have breathing problems due to the short and narrow nasal cavities. They are the ones that can aggravate this kind of respiratory troubles during flight. Examples here are certainly: Persian and Burmese cats, as well as dog breeds – boxer, bull terrier, French bulldog, chow chow, pug, or the popular shih tzu.

Many airlines reserve that they will not transport animals such as rats, snakes, turtles or even parrots. Some of them immediately say that they can only transport dogs.

Transporting animals by plane
Transporting animals by plane

What animals have special privileges on airplanes?

As in other means of transport, guide dogs are in a privileged position on airplanes. This means that a four-legged guide for a blind, deaf or other assisting person with a mobility disability is transported free of charge. There is no weight limit for these dogs, and they do not need to be placed in a carrier or cage. The four-legged handler or assistant must be on a leash and must have a muzzle for him. It is also necessary to report it to the airline in advance and check whether any additional certificates are required. Interestingly, you cannot buy first class on a plane with a guide dog, and some low-cost airlines do not want to take them at all.

Another case, for example in the United States, is an emotional support animal with which we can board for free. It can be both a dog and a cat, but it can also be a guinea pig or a pony. Such a pet is considered to be emotional support with a therapeutic effect on the passenger. However, due to the fact that this type of legislation has started to be abused, now in the USA, in order to board with such an animal, you must have a confirmation from a doctor, e.g. a psychiatrist about this type of need, in addition, our pet must be properly trained.

Documents needed to transport animals by plane

Preparations for transporting animals by plane must begin with completing all the required formalities.

First of all, every animal transported by plane must be chipped. Such an implanted microchip enables its identification in the event of its loss. It is done at the vet, where this pleasure costs 11-22 euro. In addition, it is worth knowing that without an implanted microchip, we will not get a passport for our pet. In turn, the passport is needed not only to travel by plane, but also by any other means of transport abroad.

After our animal has been chipped, it is necessary to vaccinate it against rabies. This must be noted in the vaccination booklet.

The next step is to get a passport, which we will also do at the vet for a sum of around EUR 66-70. It is there that information about the health of our pet and our data as owners are found. If we fly to the regions of the European Union and other European countries, it is enough to describe, among others the color, breed, sex of the animal with the microchip number or possibly a tattoo. Sometimes additional certificates from the vet are also needed, for example for deworming or deticking.

When traveling with our pet to countries such as: Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden or Malta, in addition to the above-mentioned documents and a microchip, we also need up-to-date results of antibody tests (made at a certain time before departure). Therefore, when planning a flight, it is worth familiarizing yourself with the relevant regulations regarding the required testing of imported animals, applicable in these countries.

Check also where and how to find cheap flights using the search engine.

What else is worth knowing about air pet transport?

It is definitely worth calling before making the payment for the booked flight ticket to the selected carrier and register our animal. Earlier we mentioned the fact that many airlines reserve the right to take only a certain number of pets on one flight. Therefore, it is worth making sure that our companion will catch the transport.

You may consider sedating your pet prior to flight. Both with us on board or in a container below deck. Of course, we are talking about drugs prescribed by a veterinarian who knows the health of our pet. Sometimes giving tranquilizers on your own ends in tragedy. The animal is highly stressed, and the pressure change and the drugs begin to hit our pet with redoubled force, which it may not survive. This is especially true for cats, because in their case it is better to use sedative or happy pheromones in a spray that can be sprayed on the container.

If our pet has never traveled, whether in a container or in a transport bag, it is worthwhile to slowly familiarize it with this new environment before departure. However, for the duration of the journey, it is worth putting inside something that the smell knows well – your favorite blanket or toy. It is important to mark the transporter well and place our data somewhere along with the telephone number. Many people also leave information on feeding the four-legged passenger.

It is also worth realizing that the transport of an animal by plane is also associated with a slightly longer check-in procedure. Therefore, many airlines propose to arrive at the airport up to 3 hours before departure.

Before the flight itself, it is worth exhausting our pet a bit. You can go for a long walk with your dog, or offer an interesting and challenging game to play with, for example, a cat. For a few hours before departure, it is better not to feed our pets, and also limit their water.


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