For many of us, our pets are like family. It’s only natural that we want to make sure our pets are safe and comfortable when they travel. That’s especially true when traveling by air.
Traveling with your pet requires some planning. First and foremost, anytime you fly with a pet, it’s important to check your airline’s pet policy to make sure your pet will be able to fly safely and comfortably with you. Also remember that while the airline you choose may allow pets, the country you are traveling to may have their own policies on which animals are allowed in. So even if you have visited before, make sure you’re up to date on your destination’s rules for pet entry.
That said, the rules on pet air travel are constantly changing. It’s not always easy to find an airline that will welcome your furry friends with open arms. Here is a shortlist of the best and worst international airlines to fly with your pets.
The Best International Airlines to Fly with Pets
A research study by Comparethemarket.com looked at the best and worst airlines to fly with pets. Here are few of their findings:
Air France – The French airline is a clear leader in the pet transport field. Air France allows you to bring up to three pets along for the cost of an extra suitcase. Pets of up to 75kg (including carrier) can travel with you in the cabin, and you can buy carriers to keep your small friends in comfort. There are also freight options for heavier pets, who’ll be made welcome in their own holding area.
Thomas Cook – There’s not only a wide range of animals allowed on Thomas Cook, there’s no maximum weight for pets on holiday either – and you can get them on board for just 15 euros per dossier plus an excess baggage fee.
TUI – While a more expensive option – with a total cost of 81.60 euros per pet – TUI allows pets up to 6kg to travel in the cabin alongside you, and heavier pets can be put up in the cargo hold for the duration of the flight. Pets can also be added to an existing flight with a quick call.
British Airways Pet Policy
British Airways was also among the best airlines to fly with pets. British Airways has different rules for service animals and non-service animals, and there is a process including additional fees that you must go through before boarding the plane with your pet.
When you book your flight, notify the airline that you plan to travel with a pet, and whether that pet is a service animal. Pets must be booked through British Airways World Cargo, and you must make sure they have appropriate accommodations when you check in at the airport.
Non-service animals will be transported in the aircraft cargo hold, which is a secure, dark space where animals can travel comfortably. Your pet’s carrier must be ventilated, secure and large enough for the animal to stand up, turn around and lie down. Your pet must also have access to food and water that can be removed from outside the carrier.
Flying with a Service Animal
Service animals may travel in the cabin with you, but when you book your flight, you’ll need to send documentation of your pet’s vaccines to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Your pet should also have a safety harness to secure him or her during takeoff and landing, and a fleece bed is recommended on long flights.
That said, the rules on pet air travel are constantly changing. For instance, emotional support animals (ESAs) used to be legally guaranteed the right to fly with you in the cabin for free, but that’s no longer true. Still, a lot of airlines will still be more accommodating if you have an official ESA letter, so it’s worth asking.
The Worst International Airlines to Fly with Pets
Some airlines, including EasyJet, Emirates and FlyBe won’t let you onboard with a pet at all. Also near the bottom of the list are United and Delta.
United’s PetSafe program was rolled back in June 2018, and the airline has had a few newsworthy run-ins with pets traveling on the airline. Their policy states that pets can travel in the cargo hold of the aircraft on certain flights, but does not specify what types of animals are permitted or give guidelines for service animals.
In June 2018, Delta banned all “pitbull-type dogs” on flights. The airline said the new policy was a “direct result of growing safety concerns following recent incidents in which several employees were bitten.”
Tips for Pet Air Travel
Talk to your veterinarian before traveling with your pet. They may offer tips specific to your animal.
Most airlines recommend bringing a comfortable crate and bed for your pet’s travel. Chew toys can also help them pop their ears when they are uncomfortable during a flight. Sometimes a full stomach can upset animals during air travel.
United recommends feeding them four hours before the flight, if the flight won’t be a long one. Otherwise, British Airways suggests providing food and water for the animal during the flight.
Also be aware of weather conditions at the location of departure, arrival and any layovers. Most airlines have features in place to help control your pet’s comfort if they will be exposed to temperatures above 85 degrees F or below 45 degrees F.
Make sure you know your airline’s policy on tracking your pet during the flight, and what will happen if you and your pet are separated by a delayed flight or some other travel inconvenience.