Airline Pet Travel

Airline pet travel, although it may seem traumatic to a caring pet owner, whether in-cabin or cargo, is oftentimes the best way (or the only way) to travel. Dogs, cats and all pets get to their destination quicker and as safely as possible. It should be noted that millions of animals travel safely aboard aircraft every year. Airline personnel make every effort to handle these animals with the care they deserve.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets and enforces regulations for the transportation of live animals. These regulations apply to the pet owner, the shipper, as well as to the airlines. If you decide to transport your dog or cat by air, there are some things to check for in order to be in compliance with applicable laws, and to assure the safest and most comfortable trip for your pet.

If you are traveling with a smaller dog or cat, generally under 13 pounds and 12″ from floor to front shoulder, you should be able to bring the pet into the cabin with you. Always check with the airlines to find out the dimensions under the seat in front of you. An airline compliant carrier is a must. It should have a waterproof bottom, secure fasteners, (zippers) and ventilation on all sides. (These carriers are available at PetTravelStore.com.)

If you cannot accompany your pet, or they are too large to fly in the cabin, dogs and cats typically are transported as cargo or as checked baggage. Sometimes these terms create confusion, but both describe humane means of shipping animals. What is important to know is that you may only transport your pet as checked baggage if you are a passenger traveling on the same flight as your pet and the combined weight of your pet and its crate is under about 70 pounds. (This weight varies by airline.) If flying cargo, your pet may travel unaccompanied, either through the regular cargo channels or through an especially expedited delivery service that several airlines have developed. Many airline cargo departments have specialists in the movement of animals who can assist you with answers to your questions. They are trained to handle your pet with care and are experienced in doing so.

What is important for you to know is that pets traveling as cargo are transported in the same pressurized holds as those in the checked baggage system and this area is temperature and pressure regulated similar to the cabin.

Each airline has its own pet policy, but one thing remains the same. You should call the airline before you book and tell them that you are traveling with a pet. Most airlines will only allow a certain number of pets in the cabin. Additionally, there will be a cost to bring your pet in the cabin with you. If your pet is traveling unaccompanied, then contact your airline’s cargo department.

For more tips on traveling with a pet on an airline, visit airline travel tips.

For airline pet policies for every airline that we can find worldwide, visit airline pet policies.


Comments

Airline Pet Travel — 177 Comments

  1. Hi!…I have been on vacation in Florida for the last couple of weeks and decided to stay. I left my dog in Puerto Rico at home and have someone taking care of him while on vacation but now that we are staying here to live of course I want to bring him. He is the large (longer legs) Boston Terrier and he weights between 25 to 30 pounds.I had no idea there were restrictions on airlines for his breed and also that as far as I have read the airlines will not ship pets in the summer time. I am beyond desperate at this point. There is no way I can leave him until the middle of September!…please!…there’s got to be other an option!
    Thank You.

  2. Martha – most all the airlines respect the temperatures as there is truly a risk to your pet when temperatures exceed 85 degrees. Additionally, your dog may require a custom crate and it will need to fly a large aircraft. Air China flies non-stop between Beijing and JFK, however, they do depart Beijing at 9A and 1P which may not be good for temperatures. China Eastern, Air China (9P departure), Korean Air (9:15P departure), Qatar (1:50A departure but 3P arrival), LOT, Japan Airlines, KLM (late departure), and Swiss (early AM departure) fly the route with one stop. Be sure and tell them about your dog’s size when you inquire.
    susan

  3. Hi, I want to import a Tibetan mastiff rescue dog to the US from China. I am working with a Swedish woman on the Chinese end who is having a really difficult time getting clear info on the process. The dog will have travel unaccompanied. The departure will be Beijing and arrival can be Dulles, Newark, or New York. I’m wondering which airlines would take her and if they have blackout dates for heat. She weighs around 45 kg. She does not look like a purebred Tibetan mastiff so she could pass as a mix if there are particular breed restrictions.

    Thank you!

  4. John – we know of no airline that will fly a live animal to the UK as anything other than air cargo. The reason for this is that the Animal Reception Center needs notification of your pet’s arrival and it is easier to get them that info if your pet travels as air cargo as opposed to in-cabin or checked baggage. Additionally, a licensed agent must collect your pet and take it to the Animal Reception Center where you will pick it up. This process has been in place for years and the airlines don’t seem to want to change it.
    Susan

  5. Although officially DEFRA now say dogs and cats can enter UK as accompanied baggage at approved entry points, in reality is any airline doing this yet?

  6. Hello Ebrahim – you should direct your inquiry to United Airlines Cargo as their drop off locations differ in each airport. Sometimes there is a PetSafe desk located near the check-in counter and other times they are located elsewhere. Call 852 3129 2333 for more information.
    Susan

  7. Thanks Susan. What about if I take United Airlines out of Hong Kong to Arkansas. Where should I drop my cat off? At the desk counter where I check in?

  8. Hello, I want to take my cat from Hong Kong to Arkansas on United Airlines flight, but I’m not sure where should I drop the cat off? When I check in at baggage? Also, should I get it any kind of passport other than shots?

  9. Hello, I want to take my border collie from UK to Bangkok. We have all the requirements completed with passport and all shots, we need now to have a health check before we leave next week. My concern now is the charge for the Zone 2 charge amount. It states up to 32kg it is $25 per kg, but together with my dog plus the approved container it will be around 43kg in total weight. Then I find that over the 32kg it is triple the charge for excess baggage charge. Does this mean it goes up from $25 to $75 per kg? I am confused about the charge, can anyone help me and explain what a normal fee charge would actually be that I should expect. I think at this rate of $75 per kg it would cost me about £2,200 using these figures, I hope this is incorrect on what I think I understood. Any help greatly appreciated, now desperate and stressed so much, I can’t leave her as this is a permanent move to live and retire in bangkok outside the city. We have our house already, but now low on funds to pay this amount, I expected it to be around £1,100 for her at 29kg + the carrier we have for her which is about 14kg, so total weight about 43kg.

  10. Chelsea – get your carrier now and get your Chi acclimated to it as much as possible prior to flying. Take it out of its environment in the carrier, then come home and make a big deal about what a good dog it was. (treats are nice). There are all natural pet treats available that may help too like these: http://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-calmers/ Try them at home first. Training is the key. Start early and it will be easier for you both.
    Jason

  11. Kristen – code sharing can be very tricky because each airline wants to collect their pet fee and this can oftentimes cause you to have to claim your pet and enter the layover country. In your option 1a, if you fly your pet as manifest cargo, KLM will most likely kennel your pet in Amsterdam (you should confirm this) for the 17 hour layover as they have great facilities there. But you should confirm that your pet does not need to clear customs to get from the Kenya Airlines terminal to the KLM pet facility. Option 1b should be your last choice because transiting London requires a transit permit, an agent and that your pet travel as manifest cargo. Despite option 1c has a long leg, it only has one stop and you stay on the same airline the entire trip. (big advantage) The more stops that you have, the harder it is on your pet and the greater chance something will happen to upset the plan.
    Susan

  12. I’m traveling with my 2 pound Chihuahua on a 4 hour flight. I’ve never traveled with a pet before but my pet sitter backed out at the last minute. Since he is still a pup and will occasionally whine, I was wondering if anyone had any tips for me to keep him as calm as possible while we fly.

    Thank you kindly!

  13. Hello,

    I will be travelling with my maltese poodle from Lusaka, Zambia to Toronto, Canada in May. I was looking for assistance on:

    1. What is the best option for routing? My options would be:
    a. Lusaka – Nairobi – Amsterdam – Toronto (Kenya Airways & KLM)
    b. Lusaka – Joburg – London – Toronto (SAA & British Airways)
    c. Lusaka – Addis – Toronto (Ethiopian) **This has one very long flight

    and

    2. Kenya/KLM and SAA/British Airways have code sharing agreements – do you know if there will be any point where I have to re-check in my dog and therefore submit to local requirements for import? Canada has more relaxed policies than Europe and am trying to avoid a blood test as it is not required for Canada and very difficult and costly to get done in Zambia.

    Cheers.

  14. Hi pet travel,
    I want to bring my persian cat (3 yrs old,5 kg ) from India to San Francisco.She is really afraid of sounds and travelling. So I wanna have her in the cabin. Can you please suggest some airlines that allow cats in the cabin.

    Thank you

  15. Daniel – you can find the requirements for importing your son’s dog to Japan here: http://www.pettravel.com/immigration/Japan.cfm. The need for quarantine depends on what country your son’s dog is entering from. Try to find the most direct route possible and do not layover in a high-rabies country if at all possible.
    Let us know if you have further questions after reviewing the regulations.
    Susan

  16. I will be taking my son’s dogs to Japan.
    I need to know what are the requirements that I need to fulfill to avoid problems during the traveling.

  17. Brittany – China does not require that pets enter in the cargo hold. Both Asiana Airlines and Korean Air fly pets in the cabin if they serve your route.
    Susan

  18. Hello,

    I will be moving to Putian China in late August. Is there any way my cat can travel as carry-on and not have to be put in cargo? I am researching quarantine regulations, but if anyone has any insight that would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks!
    Brittany

  19. Venus – you are correct that neither the USDA nor the CDC require rabies vaccination or health certificates for cats. However, if you intend to live in California, you will need to get your cat vaccinated when you have it licensed. If you are just visiting, then it would not be required. You may want to check with your airline to see if a health certificate is required as many of them do on international flights.
    Jason

  20. Hi, I am going to take my Siamese cat from Hong Kong to California at the end of the year. From the web site of the US gov and the state, both of them does not need any health certificate or vaccine record for cats. So is that really true that I do not need to take any documents for the boarder check as long as my cat looks healthy?
    Thanks a lot!!

  21. To Admin: RE: The 17lb cat.

    My cat is almost 17 lbs, but because she is cat (very flexible) and not a dog( not so much) she fits nicely in a soft-sided carrier that fits under an airline seat. We have traveled domestically with her before and plan to do it again. I do not know of any airline that has specific weight restriction for pets…merely that they fit comfortably under the seat.

    Can you please tell me where you got the info about weight limits, and exactly what those weight limits are? If something has changed I would like to know, since we are traveling again on December 4th. United, which booked my flight, has nothing about weight limits on its site.

    Thanks,
    Kathleen

  22. Hi can someone help me what are the requirements in the airport (cebu pacific) I will bring a small dog in my flight going to Mindanao .

  23. June – we do not know of any commercial airline that will fly a 17 pound cat in the cabin. We can understand your concern, but the airlines are pretty strict about weight limits on international flights. And your cat must fit into an airline compliant carrier with room to stand up and turn around. Wish I could give you happier news.
    Susan

  24. Hi! My cat has been with me since she was 2 months old and now she is 13 years old and we are moving to the Philippines from California. She is a little big (17 lbs) and because of her age, I really wanted her to be with me in the cabin so at least she can see me when she starts feeling stressed or nervous. Is there any international airline that will allow her with me in the cabin. Desperately looking for possibilities and help.. Thank you.

  25. Gabriele – it is not a requirement of South Africa that an agent handle the transport. You can contact the cargo department of an airline that flies the entire route and arrange it yourself. There are a few airlines that will not allow you to do this, however. British Airways is one of them. Just be sure that you understand and conform to the regulations to enter South Africa. You can find details here and links to instructions and forms required if you need them: https//www.pettravel.com/immigration/SouthAfrica.cfm
    Susan

  26. I will pick up a Border Collie puppy in Germany to bring her to South Africa. Unfortunately SA allow only dogs via manifesto cargo. My question can I do the handling by myself, I do all the import paper anyway. The reason, the pet handling company wants the puppy latest 2pm on the day of travel, but the flight is only leaving at 9.55pm and arrives next day at 9.40am in Johannesburg. Is they a way that I can bring the puppy short before takeoff?
    Regards
    Gabriele

  27. Giulia – you can find requirements for Qatar here: https://www.pettravel.com/immigration/qatar.cfm. If you are changing from in-cabin to cargo services, you will need to conform to Qatar’s requirements for entry. This could involve some undetermined amount of time. Another concerning thing is that Italy is a country with a low incidence of rabies, but Qatar is a country with a high incidence of rabies. So you will be entering Bahrain from a country with a high risk of rabies and there will be additional requirements when entering Bahrain. (https://www.pettravel.com/immigration/bahrain.cfm) You may want to consider a Qatar Airways flight from Rome to Bahrain with a one hour stop in Doha. Your pet will be transferred from plane to plane without having to enter Qatar. The total flight time is 7 hours. This may be an easier option for both of you.
    Susan

  28. To whom it may concern,

    I would like to ask you more information about travelling with pets.

    I have a small dog: pinscher toy. Now I am in Bahrain to work, and I would like to take my dog with me. I already know that it is not allowed to transport a pet in cabin in Bahrain, so I would like to do Rome to Doha in cabin and then another flight to Bahrein with my dog in cargo.

    Is it possible to do it? Because I do not know the pets policy in Qatar.

    Please help me with this issue.

    Thanking you in advance for your attention.

    Best regards,
    Giulia Tuzzi.

  29. Veto – there are few airlines that will allow your pet to travel in the cabin on a flight of this length. You may want to contact Korean Air. They have a route between Singapore and O’Hare International with a 3 hour layover in Seoul. As many airlines as fly this route, Korean Air is probably your best bet for in-cabin travel. Your pet will be allowed to be carried within the terminal as long as it remains in its carrier. You should not clear customs in Seoul. Stay in the terminal behind customs clearance.
    Phil

  30. Hi i need to travel from Singapore to Chicago in December, and i want to carry my pet cat with me in the cabin. My cat will meet the weight and size requirements as required by most airlines for In-Cabin travel. There is no direct flight to Chicago, and the airport of transit will depend on which airline i take. Can you recommend an airline / airport that is most convenient, as most of the layovers are from 2 to 4 hours. Will my pet be allowed to be carried within the terminal during the layover? Thank you!

  31. Hi , I am moving from chile to vietnam, I have 2 medium size dogs and 1 cat, what I have to do ? Whish way is the safest to go thru? Airline? I am really worry , don’t know what to do

  32. Anwesha – you will not find a commercial airline that will carry a pet to London with a pet in the cabin unless it is a service or comfort animal. The reason for this is the process of handling a pet after landing. A registered agent must pick up the pet and take it to the Animal Reception Center which is where you will pick it up. It will be a challenge to find an airline that will carry your pet in the summer because it is a snub nosed breed. Try scheduling very early in AM or late in PM.
    Phil

  33. I want to travel from India (Mumbai ) to London (heathrow airport ). I have a dog breed ( pug ) . Can I take him on board. I need to know all procedure and formalities .

  34. Rob – as long as you do not clear customs and your pet is traveling in-cabin, you should be ok. If the terminal configuration necessitates you to clear customs, then things get very complicated. You should discuss this possibility with the airlines.
    Jason

  35. We are travelling from far east Russia to Canada via either Narita (Japan) or Incheon (Seoul, South Korea) airports. We will hand carry our dog to Japan or Seoul but my question is if the airports (Narita or Incheon) will be ok with us having our dog in its carry container in the airport while waiting to transit. We will leave the same day we arrive in either of these 2 airports.

  36. Hi Mym – Australia does not prohibit pets from traveling in the cabin when traveling OUT of the country, but you may have a difficult time finding an airline that permits it. Qantas, Qatar, Etihad and China Eastern all serve your route, but none of them allow pets in the cabin. Your pets can traveling on the same plane as you in the hold unless you can find another airline that serves the route.
    Susan

  37. Can we take our 2 dogs with us flying Australia (Melb) to France? One is 4 kilos and the other is 6 kilos. There will be 2 (human!) passengers + 2 dogs. Or are they too heavy for cabin luggage?
    Which airlines are likely to help with this, if they need to go cargo, we’d like to be on the same flight.
    Thanks.

  38. Hello – you will be required to obtain an animal health certificate from a licensed Chinese veterinarian within 10 days of departure from China. This is required by Chinese immigration and quarantine authorities, regardless of airline carrier and US CDC requirements. The following was provided to us by a traveling pet owner leaving China with his pet. The information has not been verified by the Chinese Government.

    In general the procedure for taking a pet out of China as a dog as carry-on (in cabin) goes something like this:
    1. Have or obtain valid rabies vaccination papers, in Chinese
    2. Take the papers to local government veterinary clinic
    3. Obtain vaccination validation and local government travel permit
    4. Provide original stamped vaccination paper, validation, & travel permit to government agency in major city of departure (Shanghai, Beijing, etc.)
    5. Bring pet to health inspection clinic in departure city for blood test within 10 days of departure
    6. Have pet micro chipped – this was not an option
    7. Obtain valid health certificate from major city of departure (allow at least 2 business days)
    8. Provide health certificate to agent at airline check-in, and obtain another paper from the airline check-in agent to provide to immigration (allow extra 30 minutes at check-in)
    9. Pass through immigration and security inspection, then wait for quarantine official to come look at pet and collect paper given at check-in (allow another 10-15 minutes)

  39. What are the step by step requirements to EXPORT a cat From Shanghai, China to Las Angles, California USA ??? (I don’t need information for USA Import requirements and the small cat will fly on United in the cabin under the seat; I ONLY need information on Chinese EXPORT / CUSTOMS / IMMIGRATION requirements) Thank You – Hai Bai Bao (Black and White Cat)

  40. You can book the ticket yourself if your airline allows it. Contact the cargo department of the airline. It may be helpful to hire an agent to customs clear your pet as Hong Kong can be a challenge to customs clear, especially if there are language barriers. You can find an agent at IPATA.org if you want to get a quote.
    Susan

  41. I’m moving to Hong Kong next month. I know HK requires that my cat enters the country as manifest cargo and I’m wondering : do I have to hire a pet shipper to do so or is it possible for me to take care of this on my own (to book a flight for my cat as manifested cargo)? I have to admit I’m a bit lost…
    Thanks for your help!

  42. Australia requires that all pets entering the country by air do so as manifest cargo. Unfortunately, we do not have information on any means to transport a pet to Australia by boat. Sorry we cannot be of more assistance.
    Susan

  43. I’m trying to transport my 2 French bulldogs to Brisbane Austraila from Cyprus. A lot of airlines will not take them and this has made me realise how big the risk is. Is there any flights where they are accompanied therefore there health can be monitored or is shipping by boat possible? Thank you
    Emma

  44. Tamara – Lufthansa transports French Bulldogs, but the temperatures on the cities involved in the itinerary must be below 80 degrees. They transit through Frankfurt and Madrid to Lima. Contact them to see if they can provide a better route.
    Susan

  45. I have mixt franch bulldog and KLM dont let my dog to fly wit KlM company.
    I need transportation from Zagreb Croatia to Lima, Peru.
    Finsl destinacion Iqitos Peru.
    Please send me some information about your company.
    Best regardes Tamara Kalin

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