Pet Travel Question – What are the ways my cat or dog can travel by air?

Pets in airline cargo  cratesWe get asked a lot of questions from pet owners about traveling with a pet by air. After all, we live in a mobile age and people move all over the world every day. Certainly, they want to bring their pet with them and knowing airline pet policies and the services offered will help save a lot of headaches on travel day.

All services for live animals offered by airlines based in the United States are covered by the Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations issued in November, 2013. There are 3 ways that dogs and cats can travel on an airplane: in-cabin, checked baggage and manifest cargo.

Travel in the cabin: most airlines based in the US allow only small cats, dogs and (maybe) household birds to travel in the cabin on flights and generally only on flights under 8 hours (US-based airlines). Your pet should not exceed approximately 11-13 pounds in weight and 19 inches in length from tip of nose to base of tail. Your cat or dog will need to travel in an airline compliant carrier which has a waterproof bottom, adequate ventilation and zippers for security. Pet owners usually opt for soft sided carriers like those found here because they will offer your cat or dog additional room and will compress to go under the seat in front of you. See airline compliant pet carriers.

When flying with your pet in the cabin, you will notify the airline in advance (when you make your booking is best). On travel day, you will bring your pet to the ticket counter where you will pay for your pet’s passage. You will need to clear security on your way to the gate. Refer to this article on clearing airport security with a pet.

Travel as checked baggage: If you or your designee (over 18 years of age) are traveling with your dog or cat, then, as long as your airline offers this service (most do), your pet can travel as checked baggage in the cargo hold. This service is for pets that are too big to travel in the cabin or are pets other than dogs or cats. You need to inform your airline that you are traveling with a pet ahead of time and usually a minimum of 48 hours is required.

Your cat or dog must travel in an IATA compliant pet crate with a waterproof bottom, secure, spring latch door and adequate ventilation. On travel day, you will bring your pet in its crate to the ticket counter (or PetSafe desk if you are flying with United) where you will pay for your pet’s passage. Staff at the reservation desk will take your pet to the loading area and you will proceed on to your gate. When traveling with a dog or cat as checked baggage, you should arrive at the airport in plenty of time to process your pet. Your pet should fly on the same plane as you do. You will pick up your pet in the baggage claim area of the terminal.

Travel as manifest cargo: Dogs and cats traveling as manifest cargo travel in the cargo hold as do those traveling as checked baggage. Animals traveling as manifest cargo may be too big to handle at the ticket counter, be traveling unaccompanied by their owner or be required to do so by the country they are traveling to. Many countries require live animals to arrive as manifest cargo including the United Kingdom, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Angola, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Tongo.

If your pet is traveling as manifest cargo, you will need to contact the cargo department of your airline for details. Your pet will need a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel and, like checked baggage, your pet must travel in an IATA compliant pet crate. You will take your pet and its crate to your airline’s cargo facility (United may have a PetSafe Desk in the airport). Most airlines have cargo facilities on airport grounds. There, your pet will be weighed and crate inspected and you will complete an Airway Bill which will travel with your pet. Here is lots of information on preparing your pet crate for travel.

Your pet will travel on the same plane as you do unless there is an issue with cargo scheduled with your flight. Be sure and be proactive and ask whether your pet was loaded on the plane before you get on. Tell the Captain and crew that there is precious cargo in the hold and be sure and monitor pressure and temperature levels.

When you arrive at your destination, you will pick up your pet at the cargo facility or at another processing location. You should clarify this with cargo staff when you check in your pet.

Hope this helps to clarify the ways your pet can travel by air. You can always email us at with additional questions. Additionally, you can find more information on pet transport on if you need help with travel arrangements or cannot travel with your pet.


Pet Travel Question – What are the ways my cat or dog can travel by air? — 64 Comments

  1. Dave – your route is pretty complicated and we can understand why you are struggling to find a solution. One problem is that no airline owns this route so there will be a change of airlines or a code sharing arrangement (gray area for pets). Also, most routes involve either a change of airport in NY (ouch) or a transit in Narita and, after a long flight, AQS will quarantine your pets. Know that pet transporters deal with pets flying as air cargo which is more expensive than checked baggage. If we were advising you, we would suggest that a transporter arrange for overnight kenneling in NY and put your Labs on a flight through Seoul on Asiana or Korean Air. At this point, we don’t know how big your dogs are or whether their planes could accommodate their kennels in their aircraft. Really tough to answer this question without a lot of research.

  2. I have 2 labs I’m trying to have flown with a friend from St Louis to Hanoi, Vietnam. Every airline states they are either too big and/or too heavy to go as checked baggage. Multiple pet services have replied, in generic terms, that they cannot help. I’m stuck not knowing how I can get my 2 girls here.

  3. My jack russel is one year old puppy and has 9 kilos. Is there a chance that i can tAke my dog for a vacation in philippines? I was suggesting to take emirates plane.. Is there separation pay for the ticket of my dog rather than using my own ticket… The month would be october to november. What would you recomment? Thank you

  4. Chris – the airlines are a bit sticky on the weight of a pet and its carrier, especially on international flights. Twenty pounds is pretty large and it would be surprising that you could find a carrier that a pet of that size would fit in. Unless your pet is a service or emotional support animal, it is doubtful if it would qualify to travel in the cabin.

  5. I have a 14 year old 20lbs Jack Russell that will be traveling internationally from Singapore to Atlanta. Are there any airlines that will allow me to transport him in-cabin?

  6. Lee – as long as you are flying in and out of Germany on the same airline, then you will stay in the same terminal and not clear customs. This way, you will transit the country and do not need to conform to Germany regulations for pet import.

  7. I am travelling from US to a non EU country for a lengthy stay, but changing planes twice in Germany. The return will be the reverse route. I want to take my cat with me in-cabin. She has been well cared for since I got her several years ago but is not microchipped. The destination country accepts tattooing. I am against microchipping because of reported cases of aggressive carcinogenic tumors that have occurred at the microchip implantation site. I can’t find a direct flght. What can I do?

  8. Hi Rosa – generally, personal pets are not taxed when entering a country when traveling non-commercially. Your airline may be able to confirm this.

  9. Hi, My dog and i are traveling from Australia to Rome Italy. Is there a Airport/Customs tax to pay. If so how much? Regards Rosa

  10. Kelly – your pet must arrive in Melbourne as manifest cargo according to Australian regulations. If you change your class of service along the way from in-cabin to manifest cargo, you will need to conform to the regulations of the layover country.

  11. Hello,
    Iโ€™m planning to move from France (Paris) to Australia (Melbourne) in a few months. I have one jack russel (5kgs). With Air France, my dog could travel in the cabine for the first part of the travel.
    From France, there is no direct flight to Melbourne and we have to do a stop…
    In order to not use cargo (because it’s sooo exepensive), do you think I can do a first part with Air France (in the cabine) and change at the stop and checked him as checked baggage in the hold (with Air France partner airlines)?
    Many thanks for your help,

  12. Rene – lots of airlines fly from London to Singapore. British Airlines have direct routes and Lufthansa, KLM, Qatar Airways, Air France, Cathay Pacific and Korean Air all fly the route.

  13. Rene – try Lufthansa from London to Singapore through Frankfurt and if that doesn’t work out, Korean Air has a route through Seoul that may work.

  14. Hi, I have 1 years old cat, and I’m planing to go back to Indonesia from Canada. which is gonna be a long trip. Is it possible to travel her in cabin with me? or is there any option that might good for me? also if you can give me some information which airlines that would be good for her it would be helpful for me. thanks!

  15. Hi,
    Can I check with you is there anyway I can fly with my west highland terrier with me in the same flight from London to Singapore?

  16. Hi, I am moving from London to Singapore, is there any suggestion for flying my west highland terrier with me? I have checked singapore airline that all terriers are restricted which is very devastating ๐Ÿ™

  17. Kristin – most all airlines flying newer planes have this restriction. Did you try Air France? Lufthansa?

  18. Do you know of any airlines that allow cats in business class for international flights? I know the flat seats have eliminated this for most routes.

  19. Matt – you have many choices of airlines that fly non-stop out of LHR to ORD including Delta, American, Lufthansa, and US Airways. The flight is under 9 hours, so there should not be a problem finding an airline that will carry your pet in the cabin.

  20. My wife and I are travelling back to Chicago to live at the end of this year and want to take our cat with us in the cabin – does anyone know of any cat friendly airlines for the LHR to ORD journey?

  21. Borshee – As long as your pup is traveling on Delta in and out of Amsterdam, you should not have to enter the Netherlands or conform to their regulations. If your pup is traveling with you in the cabin, just stay in the terminal and do not clear customs. If your pup is traveling in the hold, the layover should be no more than 2 hours and Delta will transfer your pup to the next plane.

    Puppies should not have rabies vaccinations prior to 3 months of age. The US recently changed its rules regarding importing unvaccinated puppies. However, Hungary is on the list of countries considered by the US to be rabies free, so this ordinance change will not apply to your pup. You should be able to enter the country without the rabies requirement. Hope this helps.

  22. Hi,
    I am to bring a 9 week old puppy from Hungary to MA, USA with Delta via Amsterdam – does she need rabies vaccination?

    (I have read confusing data on this subject and could not determine if Hungary is considered rabies free or not.)

    Thank you for your reply,

  23. Clara – as you are entering the US from a rabies-free country, there should be no quarantine requirement. However, the State of Washington requires a rabies vaccine, so you will need to have your pet vaccinated prior to applying for a license in Washington.

  24. I we are moving to seattle, wa from melbourne australia we have a boxer that’s more than a year old… we were thinking to send him after we arrive and the house and everything and he has his vaccine up to date but I know usa ask me to give him the rabie vaccine but I called the vet here and said australia doesn’t give that vaccine what should I do? thank you soo much.. clara

  25. Jad – Air France seems to be a good start as they have relatively short layovers in ATL and CDG. Delta and KLM also fly the route. Unless you are willing to drive to Atlanta, it seems that the route between MOB and BEY will have 2 stops.

  26. Hello

    What is the best airline to deliver a dog from mobile alabama airport (united states) to beirut airport (lebanon)?


  27. Hi – You may want to consider Korean Air through Seoul. They may accommodate your pet in the cabin if it will fit in an airline compliant pet carrier under the seat in front of you. Cathay Pacific also flies the route through Hong Kong, but your pet will travel in the hold on this airline. Air France is a remote possibility for in-cabin travel as well. They fly the route through Paris. Hope this helps.

  28. June- in order to enter Canada, your dog needs to be vaccinated for rabies. If you are ever returning to the UK, then you should have your pet microchipped, then vaccinated for rabies. (in that order, but same vet visit is fine). If you are not accompanying your pet, then it will need a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel for your airline.

    You will need to contact an airline that serves the entire route as airlines do not interline pets. If you are flying with your pet, it can travel in-cabin if it is a small dog and your airline permits it. If it is a larger dog, it can travel with you as checked baggage. You will need to contact the reservations number to let the airline know you are traveling with a pet. If you are not flying with your dog, then you will need to contact the cargo department of the airline for details.

  29. Hi,
    I’m planning to travel to Vietnam in Nov.I would like to bring my dog( around 12lbs ) from Canada. What are the best airlines to consider?
    Thank you

  30. Denise – transporting pets in the cargo hold during the summer months is more risky than in the Spring or Fall. If you are moving in the next couple of months, you will need to look at either Delta or United as they are the only airlines that offer programs that deal with the summer heat. If your pets are small enough to travel in the cabin, that is great, but if they have to fly in the hold, then you need to schedule your trip in the very early morning or late at night to avoid high temperatures and lessen the risk to your pets. Schedule your route with the least number of layovers as well. The more direct, the better.

  31. I’m planning to move from Florida to Arizona. I have 2 dogs, a Jack Russell and a Jackshund. Is it safe for them to fly and what’s the least complicated way to transport them? What are the best airlines to consider?

  32. I’m flying from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau (Bahamas) and it says that I need a Pet Passport for my dog to bring on the plane, how do I obtain one? Thanks.

  33. Hi Joan – you can find the regulations for taking a pet to Hong Kong here: There are links to instructions and forms on that page if you need them. There may be quarantine depending on the country you are entering Hong Kong from. You should contact Cathay Pacific to make reservations for your pet. They will tell you about health certificate requirements.

  34. Hi,
    I’m planning to travel to HK in Jan. 2015 with my 7 years old Cairn terrier for the first time. We are choosing Cathay Pacific because it’s the shortest flight we could find.
    What do I need to know or obtain for documentation for both airline and my pet?

  35. Hello,
    Please help,I would like to bring my 2 cats to Malaysia.Can you please advise,if I do all the necessary vet cert,vaccination and micro chip,do I still need an import licence and if so,how do I go about it.I would like to travel to Malaysia around 30July by Malaysia airlines as MAS do take pets.
    Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,

  36. I want to ship a puppy to Liberia

    What will it cost and what airline will fly a puppy there as cargo?

  37. Katlin – you can fly with your pet from Florida to Wyoming with your pet in the cabin should it be small enough or as checked baggage in the hold. Depending on when you intend to travel, you may want to look at United or Delta if they fly your route as they have summer heat programs. Plan to fly out of Florida very early in the morning to avoid the heat if your pet is traveling in the cargo hold. If your pet can travel in the cabin in an airline compliant pet carrier, then the embargo will not matter. Contact the reservations desk either way for the cost and to make a reservation.

  38. Could I take my jack russell terrier on my flight from Florida to Wyoming?? If not, what can I do?? How much would it cost??

  39. Jacqueline – honestly, there is no easy way of transporting your pets from Chile to Vietnam. We were not sure what cities you are flying from and to, so we looked at Santiago and Hanoi.Air France has a one stop route from SCL to HAN that connects in Paris. Start with them. You may want to stay over a night or two and give your animals a rest before continuing on.

    The balance of carriers have 2+ stops and 32+ hour routes.

  40. I have a question, I am moving to vietnam, from Chile, south america. It is a long distance. How can I move my 2 dogs and 2 cats. How is it the best way to take them to vietnam. What do you recommend?
    Thank you

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