Review of pet travel policies of largest airlines worldwide.
There are many reasons why people wish to travel with their pets. Below we've made an attempt to analyze pet travel policies of major European, North American and Asian carriers in order to find the best airlines for traveling with pets.
Please, do not blindly rely on the information found below. Airlines can change their policies, we can make a mistake, so please always visit the relevant web pages of the airline in question in order to obtain up-to-date firsthand information.
There are three points that need to be taken into account if you're going to fly accompanied by your pet:
- by the majority of airlines as pets are often understood only cats and dogs (this rule is not without exceptions: for some Middle Eastern carries pets are represented only by guide dogs and falcons),
- never book tickets for flights operated by an airline not knowing its pet policy (it may not allow animal carriage at all),
- never go to the airport without your airline's consent to transport your pet (usually airlines require making reservation for your pet not later than 48 h before your departure).
And now to the main question. What airlines are best for traveling with pets? There's no straight answer to this question, but taking into consideration a number of key factors we can still get some idea.
The majority of European and American airlines will agree to transport our pets in the passenger cabin or in the baggage compartment / cargo area of an aircraft. Quite in contrast to the Asian airlines (looking at them you might think that the best fitted for flying with pets airlines are the ones that take them on board at all). If you wish to transport your pet in the cabin of an aircraft operated by an Asian company, your choice is very limited (you can see it in the comparison table Pets' transportation by Asian airlines).
What are the costs of flying with pets?
Most airlines will allow traveling of service animals in the cabin without any additional charges. The common types of service animals are: guide, hearing, mobility, seizure alert/response dogs, dogs trained to detect explosives and drugs, dogs for search and rescue and so forth. In order to transport the animal, you must first obtain permission from the airline, submit the documentation required and specify the details of carriage.
Today an increasing number of airlines permits the free carriage of Emotional support and psychiatric assist animals in the passenger cabin (usually cats and dogs up to 8 kg), provided that you've got all the necessary documentation from your psychiatrist/psychotherapist. This topic is able to set free some pet owners' imagination, but ask yourself: what is the probability of them allowing me to board a plane with such a certificate? As always in order to transport your animal you'll need to acquire the preliminary agreement with the airline.
Try to use direct flights (it's not always possible, because airlines often impose time limits on flights with animals: for example, the maximum possible duration for flights with pets by Aeromexico is 6 hours). But a direct flight will not only make your journey easier and more enjoyable, but also will allow you to avoid unnecessary costs. Some airlines impose additional fees on flights with intermediate stops lasting more than a few hours for services related to the animal's care during this stop. For example:
if your pet is traveling as check-in baggage and the transfer at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport lasts 2 hours or longer, you will have to pay an additional EUR 150 (or USD/CAD 200) to cover the animal’s care during the transfer;
- United Airlines (pet in the cabin):
there is an additional $125 service charge for each stopover of more than four hours within the U.S. or more than 24 hours outside of the U.S.;
- Delta Airlines:
for passengers transiting AMS with a connection time of 2 hours or longer, an additional $200 USD/$200 CAD/$150 EUR fee applies each way.
Fees for carry-on/in the cabin pets:
- On domestic/short-haul flights of the European airlines in-the-cabin pet carriage fee is generally €20 (exceptions comprise Lufthansa and TAP Portugal with €35, Finnair with €40 and Norwegian Air Shuttle €49/59 for dogs/cats respectively). On medium-haul flights (mainly flights between different European countries and flights between European countries and the Middle East) for a carry-on pet you'll have to pay about €40-70; on long-haul flights fees rise to €150-200 (exception: Aeroflot 75 €/$, Lufthansa €70). For more info look at Comparison of pet policies of major European airlines.
- On flights operated by North American airlines the average cost of transporting your animal in the cabin will be about $ 50-100 (exceptions: InterJet no extra charge(1), Sun Country $ 199/125(2), Hawaiian Airlines $ 175(3)). On transatlantic/transpacific routes: United Airlines $ 125(4), Delta Airlines 200$/CAD/€, American Airlines don't accept pets on these flights. Comparison of pet travel conditions of largest North American airlines.
- The number of Asian airlines willing to carry our pets in the passenger cabin is small, they are extremely versatile (and what else could be expected, if we try to put into one basket Israel, China, UAE, India, Japan ...?), On domestic flights they frequently use weight concept for calculating excess baggage fees, but on the whole one usually has to to pay $25; on international flights it's $100-200. Table comparing conditions of pet carriage by major Asian airlines.
Charges for the pet carriage in the cargo area / baggage compartment as checked-in baggage.
It must be said, that there's also a possibility of transporting your pet as cargo, but we will not speak about it (your pet has to be checked in through the cargo terminal, not the passenger terminal, all the rules will be quite different). The below mentioned prices are mostly relevant for with max weight of a container not exceeding 23 kg and less than 158 cm / 62" in three dimensions, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
- On domestic routes/short-haul flights the European airlines usually will charge the same € 20 for transporting your pet (exceptions: Aegean Airlines € 40, Lufthansa and TAP Portugal € 70, Finnair & Norwegian Air Shuttle € 75, Iberia € 120). On medium-haul flights (flights between European countries and flights to the Middle East) traveling with your pet will cost you about € 70-100 (Iberia € 120). On the long-haul flights for pet carriage you'll have to pay €150-200 (exception: Aeroflot 75 € / $, Iberia € 300). More info: Comparison of pet carriage conditions of largest European airlines.
- On routes operated by the North American airlines charges for pet carriage in the cargo / baggage area equal on the average $ 50-100 (exceptions: InterJet no extra charge (1), Sun Country $199, Delta Airlines $200, Hawaiian Airlines $225). Transatlantic/transpacific flights: United Airlines $125, Delta Airlines 200$/CAD/€, American Airlines does not allow pets on these flights, United Airlines - only in the cabin. More info: Comparison of pet carriage conditions of largest North American airlines.
- On domestic flights Asian airlines frequently use weight concept for calculating excess baggage fees, but on the whole one has to to pay $25-50. On international flights transportation of your pet will cost you $100-300 (Japan Airlines $400, EL AL to 50 kg - $200 and 51-100 kg (whom are we carrying?!) - $400 :), under certain conditions Qatar Airways will charge you $1.750 (5)). Comparison of pet carriage conditions of major Asian airlines.
Maximum weight for carry-on pets / pets transported in the passenger cabin. Maximum weight refers to the weight of an animal/animals together with its/their container + water and food (relevant for transportation in the cargo area of an aircraft).
- European airlines: 8 kg, exceptions are Turkish Pegasus Airlines + Romanian Tarom with 5 kg and Alitalia with 10 kg; see the overview table Animal transportation by major European airlines for details.
- North American Airlines: generally 9-10 kg (20-22 lb), the exceptions are InterJet with 11 lb (5 kg), Sun Country 16 lb (7 kg), American Airlines 8 kg (18 lb), Hawaiian Airlines 11 kg (25 lb ) and Spirit Airlines 40 lb/18 kg; see the overview table Traveling with pets using North American airlines for more details; (in contrast to the majority of European airlines, the airlines of North America don't always clearly specify the maximum weight, so getting in touch with the airline in order to receive a definite answer and its consent on the pet's carriage seems to be even more relevant). See Conditions of traveling with pets of North American airlines for more details.
- Asian airlines: very few of them allow pet transportation in the cabin, and the maximum weight is usually only 5 kg; exceptions: Royal Jordanian Airlines 7kg, Air Astana, El Al and Uzbekistan Airways 8 kg, Middle East Airlines up to 10 kg; For more details refer to the overview table Animal transportation by major Asian airlines.
But do not hurry to blame the airlines for such meager weight allowance. The size of a container with this maximum permissible weight is often limited by 90 cm only, less and less airlines allow the container size of 115 cm, height of the hard carrier is often equals to 20 cm. And airlines imply that an animal should be able to comfortably stand there (wonder how?). So the pleasant exception to the max weight rule by Alitalia is not looking so pleasant (90 cm in three dimensions with max height of 20 cm and max weight of 10 kg).
Keep in mind that the majority of airlines won't allow a passenger carrying a pet into the business or the first class cabin (it's changing now). Some airlines (KLM) will not allow you to reserve seats with any extra legroom or you'll even have to sit in the back row of the passenger cabin:( Exception Vietnam Airlines: they've once put pet carriage as a special offer to business class passengers on some routes (look for PETC:)).
Now to the maximum
weight of pets carried as checked baggage. Not a very good
idea, if for no other reason than that most airlines, exactly as United
will not be liable for illness or injury to an animal or
death of an animal due to illness or injury when the animal has been
handled by UA with ordinary standards of safety and care.
- Most airlines will accept animals up to 32 kg,
- the max weight of animals, accepted by North American airlines are often limited by 100 lb/45 kg (Alaska Airlines - 150 lb/70 kg),
- Airlines are often ready to carry animals weighing up to 75 kg (Air France, Alitalia, KLM, Middle East Airlines),
- EL AL has the weight limit of 100 kg, the animals weighing more than 100 kg can be transported as cargo only.
- Many airlines don't specify maximum weight limits, in this case it is wise to adhere to the free baggage allowance (23 or 32 kg / 50 or 70 lb); the maximum size of a container (the sum of its three dimensions) in the absence of specific instructions better keep up to 158 or 203 cm / 62" or 80".
- More information can be found on the relevant overview pages: Comparison of pet carriage conditions of largest airlines in Asia, North America or Europe.
Pet containers/carriers/bags/kennels are subjects to the IATA (International Air Transport Association) Regulations.
Have a safe flight and enjoy yourself!
(1) If you're not exceeding free baggage allowance.
(2)An advance conditional reservation for a non-refundable fee.
(3) $35 to the Neighbor Island.
(4) Pet in the cabin: there is an additional $125 service charge for each stopover of more than four hours within the U.S. or more than 24 hours outside of the U.S.