Fliegen mit Hund Reisekompass

Flying with a dog is possible, but not easy – we summarise the most critical information for you and have tips from experts.

We love travelling. We would love to be on the road all the time. But one aspect clouds the pleasure: What do we do with our dog? When travelling by car, our faithful companion can usually be taken along, but the situation is quite different when travelling by air.

Flying with a dog is a topic that concerns many travellers. Many would like to take their dog with them, but this is time-consuming and associated with questions and fears. In any case, enquiries about air travel with dogs are increasing, as AUA spokeswoman Yvonne Wachholder confirms. “In the Special Cases department, an increasing demand is perceptible.” We have therefore compiled the most essential facts.

Basically, dogs can be transported in the aircraft, either in the passenger cabin (i.e. directly with the passengers) or in the cargo hold. This depends mainly on the dog’s size: only smaller dogs can be taken into the passenger cabin.

Which dogs are allowed to fly?

Basically, all dogs, regardless of age, weight and breed – provided they are healthy. However, there are certain restrictions: Dogs over a certain size are not allowed in the cabin, and there are extra requirements for certain breeds, such as Rottweilers. The duration of the flight and the outside temperature should be taken into account. Some airlines require the animal to be a certain minimum age, so puppies are not allowed.

Fliegen mit Hund Reisekompass
May I come with you (Image: Andrew Pons via unsplash.com)

How stressful is travelling for dogs?

That depends on the individual character of the dog, says Thomas Bogner, General Manager of Animals First, a company specialising in animal transport. “As with humans, travelling is more exciting for some dogs than for others.”

Transport in the cabin

For this, airlines have precise regulations that are similar to each other but differ in details. Some examples:

  • Austrian Airlines: With Austrian, the total weight of the transport box and animal must not exceed 8 kilograms for the dog to be allowed in the passenger cabin. The total circumference of the container must not exceed 118 centimetres (55 x 40 x 23 centimetres). Prices: from 50 euros (domestic flights) to 110 euros (intercontinental, e.g. to Japan).
  • Lufthansa: Regulations regarding size and weight as with AUA. Prices from 50 euros.
  • Air France and KLM: Size of the box 46 x 28 x 24 centimetres, maximum 8 kilograms. Costs: from 75 euros.
  • Attention: For some destinations, transport in the cabin is generally prohibited, such as Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong and South Africa. So if you are flying to London, for example, you must always have your dog transported in the hold.

Flights in Business Class

It is generally not possible to take a dog with you in Business Class because there is no space to stow the transport container under the seat in front.

Transport in the hold

Thomas Bogner generally recommends transport in the cargo hold. “This is, so to speak, first class for air freight with enough space, quiet, its own ventilation, light and active temperature control.” This also means that there is no noise pollution from fellow passengers. “So the animal has enough space with its transport box to travel comfortably.”

The box for the dog must be designed so that it can stand upright in it and has enough free space. It also needs water and food containers as well as air holes on 3 sides. The prices for transport in the cargo hold start at AUA at 80 euros (domestic, smaller boxes) and end at 380 euros (e.g. flights to Asia in a larger box).

Flying with a dog: Several dogs in one box?

In the cabin, only one dog per box is allowed at a time. In the hold, most airlines allow 2 animals per box if they are not too big and not too heavy (usually a maximum of 14 kilograms per dog).

Are there certain requirements for certain breeds?

Yes, most airlines have special regulations for list dogs (e.g. Bull Terrier, Pit Bull, Staffordshire) and blunt-nosed dogs (brachycephalic breeds, e.g. Pug, Pekinese, Chow Chow) – e.g. prohibition for certain routes or at certain times of the year.

Planning flights with dogs

The most important thing is to plan well in advance and book early. If you want to fly with your dog, you should check with the airline in advance: Is it basically allowed, what documents are needed, what does it cost? Most airlines require, among other things, a pet passport or other proof of vaccinations. Once this has been clarified, you should book early, as space can be limited. You will also need a suitable transport box (for the cabin or cargo hold).

Fliegen mit Hund Reisekompass
Flying with dogs is not that easy

Flying with a dog to the USA

Since last year, there are new, strict regulations for flights with dogs to the USA: You are no longer allowed to enter the USA by plane with a dog from certain countries. You should enquire directly with the airline, e.g. at the Austrian Airlines Service Center.

Checking weight and size

The size and weight of transport containers including your dog will be checked directly at check-in, explains Yvonne Wachholder (AUA). This is another reason why you should plan carefully, because most airlines pay very close attention to the dimensions and weight. It is not possible to cheat your way through.

Alternative: Flights by private jet

If you have the necessary small change, you have another option to fly with a dog: If you charter a private jet, you can take your dog or cat (or both) with you as you wish. VistaJet, a provider of private jet flights, is seeing increasing demand for flights with pets – there has been an 86 per cent increase in the last two years, they say. The company has adjusted to this: All of the 200 or so flight attendants have completed a first-aid course for pets, and they have also been taught about the animals‘ behaviour. And it is by no means only dogs and cats that are allowed to jet on private jets: Since recently, rabbits can also be taken on board with VistaJet. Of course, the animal travellers also receive special treatment in line with the price range of such private flights – such as sleeping mats, suitable food and toys.

Flying with assistance dogs

Most airlines allow assistance dogs to travel in the cabin, but they must be well trained, so they must not bark or growl. In most cases, the transport of such dogs is even free of charge. Here, too, the rule is: plan and book in good time! In any case, you need proof that the dog is needed and has been trained accordingly.

Tips and tricks for flying with a dog

Thomas Bogner of Animals First, the company specialising in animal transport, has some tips for Reisekompass readers.

The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your pet will be.

  • Timely preparation and clarification are recommended, at least 4 to 6 weeks before the desired transport date. The earlier, the better.
  • Do not take your pet on short holidays or weekend trips. It is better to leave your dog or cat in a boarding kennel for short trips – this is less stressful for the animal and for you!
  • Practice with the transport box – this should become a place of retreat and peace for the dog, for example by slowly getting used to spending time in it. For example, feeding in the box or certain rest periods in which the box replaces the dog’s basket can help.
  • Observe the respective exit and entry regulations – i.e. veterinary confirmations, necessary vaccination certificates, documents and so on.
  • Never give sedatives or tranquillisers!
  • So-called “soft bags” or “expandable bags” are not recommended. These are largely prohibited under IATA regulations – both in the cabin and in the hold.
  • If you are looking for a professional partner for animal transport, look for seriousness and quality seals, for example whether the company is a member of IPATA or ATA.

For information: Animals First is based at Vienna International Airport – the family-owned company offers transport solutions for pets, zoo animals and livestock; advice is offered from simple air freight transport to an all-round package, starting with pick-up from home.

Flying with a dog is not that easy, but it is possible. However, you should consider in good time whether you want to put your dog (and yourself) through the procedure – it rarely makes sense for short trips.

Photo at top: Ryan Walton via unsplash.com

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