International Pet Travel
Before the Flight
Visit the vet
The first step in organising your furry friend’s big adventure abroad is booking in a visit to the vet. As well as giving your cat or dog a clean bill of health with up-to-date vaccinations, worming and flea and tick treatments, the vet may be required to administer some extra checks for international travel.
Depending on your destination, your pet may need to be vaccinated and microchipped before it is granted entry into the country. For specific quarantine information, refer to the official goverment website of your destination.
It is not recommended to sedate your pet prior to travel and your airline may not accept sedated animals and sedation can cause dehydration, but your vet may be able to provide a natural calmer if your pet is anxious or especially active.
Some countries require pets to be micro chipped for identification so organise with your vet to have this done if you haven't already.
Organise your container
All animal containers must comply with the specifications of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), including a sturdy construction and enough space for your pet to stand, turn and lie down.
Most airlines require your pet’s travel abode to be made of metal or wood, as larger animals can potentially break through plastic crates. Containers (or crates, carriers or kennels) must not be collapsible if they are to be stored in the cargo hold, must have a secure door that can be locked and must be leak-proof with suitable rubber matting inside that absorbs liquids and odours.
Long-haul containers should have separate food and water dishes attached inside the kennel, and it’s a good idea to include a favourite toy or comfort item to keep your pet feeling safe. Containers can be hired or purchased from dedicated pet travel companies or sometimes even from the airline themselves.
Make sure to label your pet's carrier with your name, contact details, destination details, and attach a bag of food and feeding details for ground staff upon arrival.
Permits and paperwork
The process to send pets internationally can be a complex and arduous one and should be started well in advance of travel – sometimes at least six months beforehand. Your Flight Centre consultant can help you along with this process and ensure all the right boxes are ticked and the journey is a smooth one.
There will be different forms depending on the country you are entering to be arranged through the appropriate government body.
International pet travel checklist
- Veterinary treatments and letter
- Up-to-date vaccinations
- Export, import and transit permits
- Quarantine documentation
- Government documentation if needed
- IATA approved container
During the Flight
Where does my pet stay?
Your pet will be placed in the cargo hold under the main cabin seating or sometimes in the front or rear of the plane, depending on the aircraft. The hold is climate controlled and pressurised for the comfort of your pet, but some international aircraft do not accept pets in extremely hot or cold weather in consideration of their welfare.
Pets as carry-on
If your pet is small, you may be able to bring it onboard as carry-on. While there are currently no airlines from the UK that offer this service, it is possible on some flights in the United States and Europe, depending on the airline.
Pets must stay in their carrier at all times during the flight and there are limits to how many animals can travel in the cabin at one time so check with your Flight Centre consultant to find out all the fine details about treating your pet to an on-board journey.
After the Flight
If your dog is returning to the United Kingdom, it's microchip will need to be scanned and documents will be checked before being available to pick up. A similar process also takes place in most European destinations under the Pet Travel Scheme. If you do not have the correct documents though your pet may be placed in quarantine, which is also the case if it is travelling to countries like Australia.
Quarantine is similar to a boarding kennel, where your pet will be well cared for and comfortable. After your pet has passed quarantine checks, you will be free to collect it.
You can arrange for your pet to be transported from the quarantine location to your home address when they are given the all clear.
How much does pet travel cost?
Pet travel costs vary depending on the size and weight of the animal as well as the route, destination and airline itself. While some airlines allow pets to travel free as part of a checked baggage allowance, others charge specific fees per sector and container.
If you are sending your pet unaccompanied, you may have to do it through a freight company. Check with your Flight Centre consultant when you make your booking and they will let you know the best options for your furry family member as well as what costs you are likely to encounter.
Can my pet travel on any plane?
Whether or not your pet can travel on your desired route also depends on their aircraft. Many aircraft also have limits to how many pets can be taken on a single flight due to space restrictions and for the comfort of the critters, so book your pet in as soon as possible.
How do I make a booking for my pet?
Contact your Flight Centre Airfare Expert and they will take care of all the hard work for you. Booking pet travel can involve a lot of liaising with the airline to confirm requirements, get paperwork together, and is especially complex for international travel. Booking through a Flight Centre consultant means you only have one point of contact and can book in your own travel plans at the same time.
Are all pets allowed to travel?
There are a number of breeds that are not accepted for airline travel, either due to their predisposition to aggressive behaviour or because of potential difficulties with breathing. This includes snub- or pug-nosed cats and dogs, including persian cats, pugs, shih tzus and bulldogs.
Cats and dogs are usually the only types of animals allowed to travel on airlines, and most others are required to be shipped or freighted by road.
Birds and reptiles may be accepted as air cargo, but this depends on the airline and service travelled. Keep in mind you may also need special permits when sending birds or reptiles interstate or internationally.
Are there different rules for travelling with guide dogs?
Yes, there are. For more detailed information on travelling with assistance animals, please refer to our travelling with disabilities section.