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Flying with a pet

Depending on their size and species, pets can either travel with their owner on the same flight in the cabin or in the cargo hold of the plane, or they can be transported separately from the owner as cargo. On this page you will find general instructions related to air travel with a pet and tips for booking flights with them.

Compare the Airlines!

See the differences in size and weight restrictions between airlines operating in Europe and indicative pet ticket prices on flights.

General information about flying with a pet

On most flights, there are 2 (sometimes 3) pet spots in the cabin and 2 in the cargo hold.

 

Small pets (usually up to 8 kg, sometimes 10 or 12 kg) are allowed to travel in the cabin with their owners in a carrier under the seat in front - although in practice, the pet is usually in the owner's legroom, not completely stuffed under the seat as instructed by the airline. NOTE! The weight limit includes both the pet and its carrier! Some airlines weigh the pet during check-in, while others do not - some do not mind even if the combined weight is 9 kg instead of 8 kg. This varies depending on the airline and the staff currently working on the check-in.

 

In some airplane models pets cannot be carried in the cabin in the Business class because the legroom in the front is different and can not fit the pet under the seat. However, these aircrafts often allow pets to be transported in Economy class.

 

Large pets (usually over 8 kg, sometimes over 10 or 12 kg) travel separately from the owner in the cargo hold. Depending on the size, the cargo hold can accommodate 1-3 pets (2-3 with a maximum weight of 14 kg per animal) per carrier. Practices vary among airlines. The maximum weight in the cargo hold varies by airline, usually ranging from 45-75 kg with the carrier. The maximun weight in cargo hold can vary a lot between 30-150kg so it's advisable to check the limits well in advance with the airline.

 

To certain destinations (UK, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates) and for certain animal species (e.g., lizards, snakes), transportation is only possible as cargo. Airlines have strict rules regarding carrier size and material, and maximum dimensions vary by airline. More information on this can be found below.

Which pets can fly?

Many airlines have banned or set restrictions regarding brachycephalic, or short-nosed, cat and dog breeds - many airlines only accept them in the cabin. Some airlines require the owner to sign a form, where the risk of the transportation of these breeds is on the owner, not on the airline. Some airlines do not transport brachycephalic breeds at all. More details can be found on the list of the airlines below or on the page "Snub-nosed cats and dogs".

 

Some airlines prohibit the transportation of certain fighting dog breeds, while others have stricker requirements for their transportation. More information on this can be found in the airline-specific listings or on the page "Fighting dog breeds".

 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recommends avoiding air travel with

  • unwened puppies and all puppies under 8 weeks of age

  • pregnant bitches in the last trimester of pregnancy (approximately from day 40 onwards)

  • a nursing bitch and her unweaned puppies

  • a bitch in heat

  • a bitch that gave birth less than a week ago

 

For puppies, rabies vaccination and its effectiveness must also be considered. Restrictions vary by country, even within the EU. Some countries allow the import of unvaccinated kittens, puppies, and ferrets under certain conditions, while others don't accept unvaccinated puppies to be transported. This leads to a minimum age of 15 weeks for puppies to be able to travel to certain countries. You can find more information about puppy rabies vaccinations here.

 

Traveling is most common with dogs (and cats), but it is also possible to transport more exotic pets by air. You can find more information about traveling with exotic animals here.

How to purchase a pet ticket

Purchasing a ticket for a pet may be slightly more challenging when it comes to flight tickets compared to other modes of transportation. This is because many airlines do not sell pet tickets together with their online booking, and therefore, it is not possible to purchase a pet ticket directly when buying your own ticket.

 

Not all airlines (especially low-cost airlines) accept pets for transportation.

 

Typically, one person can only transport one pet or one transport crate (which can accommodate one, two or three pets depending on their age and weight). Some airlines allow one passenger to have both a checked baggage and a cabin seat for their pet, being two pet tickets in total per person.

 

Favor direct flights whenever possible! If you have to fly with layovers and the routes are operated by different airlines, you will need to book and pay for a separate pet ticket for each part of the journey. The policies of airlines vary regarding layovers for pets traveling in the cargo hold - some do not allow layovers at all, while those that do accept layovers, set minimum and maximum layover times between flights. Some airlines charge an additional fee for transferring pets between flights at certain airports (such as Lufthansa operating in Brussels, Geneva, Frankfurt, Zurich, and Vienna in Europe). The cost of a pet ticket in the cabin on European flights with most airlines is approximately 60-70 euros per flight, while the price for a pet traveling in the cargo hold ranges from 80 to 200 euros. The prices may vary a lot and long-distance flights outside of Europe can cost much more than aforementioned amounts. Check here the table of the pet prices in the most common airlines operating in Europe!

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Buying a ticket step by step

1. Find flights that suit you (Skyscanner, Momondo, etc.). However, ALWAYS buy flights through the airline's own website! If there is a need to make changes to the tickets (such as when buying a pet ticket), the changes can only be made when the reservation has been made directly through the airline. Forget Kiwi, Travellink, Supersaver, Ticket.fi, Mytrip and other options that offer cheaper tickets when you plan to travel with your pet! It is really difficult or even impossible to make changes or additions to flights purchased through intermediaries. Check on the airline's website that they transport pets and be careful about which company operates the flight! For example, flights operated by Norra are sold on Finnair's website, and the dimensions of the transportation crate and the maximum weight of the pet transported in the hold can be different depending on the operator. The same happens with many other airlines (e.g. Vueling-Iberia, Ryanair-Malta Air etc.)

2. Only a few airlines (e.g. Finnair & Vueling) shows the availability and have the option to book a pet in the cabin directly on the flight when booking your own ticket online. Some airlines allow you to add a pet online after buying your own ticket by changing the reservation, but in this case, when you buy your own ticket, you don't know the situation of available places for pets. When online booking is not possible, you should continue buying the ticket with one of the following options. I recommend way A, but way B also works with many airlines. The earlier you book your tickets, the more likely it is that there will be room for a pet on the flight. Often when booking through customer service, the staff will ask for the exact dimensions of the transport box and the weight of the pet, so make sure you have this information available before contacting the airline!

2 A - Call the airline's customer service before buying your own ticket

  • ask about available pet tickets on the flight you are aiming to buy

  • with some airlines you can buy a plane ticket for yourself and your pet by phone, but many direct you back to their website for online booking (which is also a more reliable way to get your information on the ticket correctly, because sometimes spelling the names on the phone when the lines are creaking is quite challenging)

  • if there is room for a pet on the flight you want, return to make a reservation for yourself via the website

  • after booking confirmation, call the airline again and book a pet seat by phone under your own booking number

2 B - Purchase the flight and then call the airline's customer service.

 

Waiting in line for airline customer service can sometimes be a time-consuming process. To avoid making a second call (Option A), you can purchase your desired ticket from the airline's website and inquire about pet ticket options over the phone after receiving the booking confirmation. NOTE: Before purchasing the ticket, make sure that the airline allows free cancellation within 24 hours of purchase.

 

If you get informed that pet seats are available, you can book them during the same phone call.

 

If tickets are not available, you can cancel the flight you just purchased within 24 hours and get a refund.

 

Always purchase flights with a credit card! If, for some reason, you do not receive a refund from the airline, you can seek assistance through your credit card company.

2C - Contact the airline through their website's chat feature.

 

Through the chat, you can inquire about the ticket availability of pets either before or after purchasing your own flight.

 

It can be easier to provide your reservation number and make a pet reservation in writing through the chat, as you won't need to communicate the reservation number over the phone.

See the list of the airlines here!

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