Travelling with Pets

If you have pets, going on holiday can prove difficult even before you set off. Whether you plan on taking your pet with you or leaving them in the UK, it can be hard to find out everything you want to know or even where to look in the first place. Here are some of the issues you will have to think about when considering taking your pet away with you.

Avoiding quarantine

Quarantine is no longer a legal requirement when bringing your pet back into the UK. However, be sure to check immigration guidelines for both your destination and your return journey.

In order to travel overseas your pet will need the following items:

  • a microchip
  • a rabies vaccination (make sure your pet is microchipped first or the vaccination won't count)
  • a blood test (for outside EU only)- the vet must take the blood sample at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination
  • a pet passport (EU) or official third country veterinary certificate (outside of EU)
  • tapeworm treatment (for dogs only)

Details of pet passports can be found here.


When transporting your pet by air, they will generally be kept in the cargo hold for the duration of the journey, although some airlines permit smaller dogs or cats to be kept in the cabin if their carrier can fit underneath the seat in front. It’s important to make sure you have the right size container for your pet before you set off so research your airline’s requirements first. Carriers must be IATA approved.

Be aware that most airlines have restrictions on certain breeds of animal. Snub-nosed pets such as Bulldogs, Boxers, Pekinese or Persian cats can suffer from breathing difficulties in high-stress situations and many airlines do not allow these to travel. Please consult your veterinarian before air travel.

See the chart below for allowances and restrictions for most major airlines.

When you arrive at the airport your pet will need to be dropped off at a cargo or pet reception centre before you enter the terminal. The exact procedure varies depending on airport and airline. Heathrow airport has an animal reception centre, from which you can collect your pet following your return journey; however before departure animals should be placed in the custody of the airline's cargo service. Ensure your pilot is informed that a pet is onboard, so that they can be sure to keep the temperature at the proper level.

It's also possible for you to take your pet with you on a ferry crossing. Dogs or cats can be kept on your vehicle with you or looked after in the onboard kennels. For safety, bare in mind the same rules as when leaving your dog or cat in a parked car; make sure they are kept hydrated and that the vehicle is well ventilated.

For your pet

Travelling can be stressful for your pet, from being uprooted to being kept in a confined space for a long period of time; there are many factors that you will need to consider when making your pet as comfortable as possible.

Many airlines recommend not feeding your pet for four hours prior to flying, as a full stomach may make them uncomfortable in the air. Allow them plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Check with the airline, but it may be worth leaving bowls in the carrier when checking your pet so that airline employees can provide them with food and water should your flight be delayed. Include your pet’s favourite toy or blanket in the container to minimise their stress levels and bear in mind that travelling by air can be stressful for animals, with long waiting times and loud noises.

The RSPCA has more information on the implications of different means of transportation for animals, which can be viewed here.

At your destination

When booking your holiday make sure the environment will be suitable for your pet when you get there. A number of holiday providers cater for pets. Maps4pets is great free resource to help you discover pet friendly holiday destinations and accommodation worldwide.

Leaving your pet in the UK

If you are only going away for a short time, you might decide it's best to leave your pet in the UK. When choosing a boarding kennel or cattery, look out for the size of the kennels (look for large kennels of around 6ft by 6ft) and access to outside space.

The Kennel club has more information on finding a suitable boarding kennel for your pet, which can be found here.

Individual airline specifications
Airline Specifics of Pet Travel Link for further information
Air France A dog or cat weighing more than 8 kg / 17 lb (up to a maximum weight of 75 kg / 165.3 lb including container) must be transported in the hold. Each passenger can transport up to 3 animals in the hold.

Your animal must be at least 10 weeks old and have all required vaccines in order to travel. When booking your flight, please indicate that you will be transporting an animal in the hold.

If your trip includes a stopover, please ensure that you have more than 2 hours between flights. You may only check in your animal for the first part of your trip. During your stopover, you must have enough time to collect your baggage and animal, and check them in again for the second flight.
American Airlines Cats and dogs are the only types of pets accepted on American Airlines. Breed restrictions apply. Pets travelling in the cabin require a reservation to ensure no more than seven pets are booked on any single flight. To ensure your pet is accommodated, please make arrangements in advance by contacting Reservations.

Up to two pets are permitted in the same kennel but they must be the same species, a similar size and weigh less than 20lb.

Carry-on pets must be at least 8 weeks old and stay in their kennel under the seat in front of your for the entire flight.

Checked pets are permitted between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Cabin pets within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central America, Colombia and the Caribbean provided the country of arrival permits entry but they are NOT allowed to Hawaii.
British Airways British Airways cargo, including checked pets, is handled by IAG World Cargo.

Only dogs and cats are permitted to travel as checked baggage. Reservations must be confirmed within 72 hours of travel. Kittens and puppies must be at least 10 weeks old. Pregnant dogs and cats are not permitted to travel past 6 weeks of their gestation period.

All pets must be in accordance with the DEFRA Pet Travel Scheme.

British Airways will not transport dogs, cats or other live animals to South Africa as checked baggage due to country restrictions. No dangerous dogs, bulldogs or pugs are permitted. Other snub nosed pets must travel in crates at least 10% larger than normally required. Your dog or cat must travel in an IATA compliant hard plastic, metal or wooden pet crate with a leak proof bottom, secure door with spring lock and adequate room for your pet to stand up and turn around.
easyJet easyJet does not permit animal travel either in the cabin or the hold with the exception of medically certified service animals.  
Emirates Emirates Airlines pet policy does not accept animals as checked baggage except for falcons, cats, dogs (breed restrictions apply) and pet birds (restrictions apply) as long as the flight time is less than 17 hours. Dogs and cats must be older than 4 months of age.

Emirates will not permit the transport of non-acclimated, wild caught birds. Any species subject to CITES requirements must be transported in cargo with prior approval.
Flybe Flybe Airlines will only transport your pet in the cargo section of the aircraft between major UK airport, or between Manchester and Hanover airports. No other destinations will carry pets.

Pets fly through an independent freight forwarder called Jets4Pets.
KLM A small cat or dog can be taken into the Economy Class cabin of most KLM flights, and in Business Class on most KLM flights within Europe in a suitable kennel or pet travel bag with dimension no bigger than 46cm (length) x 28cm (width) x 24cm (height), or in a hard kennel with max. dimensions 46cm (length) x 28cm (width) x 20cm (height). Your pet must be able to stand up and lay down comfortably.

Total weight of pet + travel bag or kennel may be max. 8 kg (18 lbs). The kennel must be put under the seat in front of you.

Your cat or dog may travel as check-in baggage in a ventilated part of the aircraft:

In a non-wooden kennel that complies with IATA rules. Total weight of your pet and kennel combined may be max. 75 kg (165 lbs). On all KLM flights (and on KLM Cityhopper flights of less than 2 hours). Between 1 November and 31 March each year, pets cannot be taken in the hold of Fokker aircraft because it cannot be heated.

Breed restrictions apply.
Qantas Group All passengers travelling on Qantas domestic and international flights must book and lodge pets through Qantas Freight no less than 10 days ahead of travelling.

Pets travel as specialised freight and aren’t guaranteed to be on the same flight as the passengers. Check with Qantas freight if you wish to be on the same flight as some restrictions apply.

At this stage only service dogs can be carried into the passenger cabin of the aircraft.
Ryanair Ryanair does not permit animals to travel either in the cabin or the hold with the exception of medically certified service animals.  
Thomson Airways All carriage of pets needs to be arranged through, Thomson’s exclusive pet agent.

All pets must travel in the cargo hold.
United Domesticated cats, small dogs, rabbits and birds may travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin on most flights within the U.S. Some restrictions apply. PetSafe is the specially designed program for shipping animals safely and comfortably on United flights.
Virgin Atlantic The Flying Paws scheme means pets can earn Flying Club miles (see Flying Paws section of website). Only cats and dogs are accepted on flights.

The pet’s booking need to be taken at least a week before your flight. You should check your pet in with Virgin Atlantic Cargo four hours before your departure time.

Pets can fly to and from Antigua, Barbados, Boston, Chicago, Cape Town, Dubai, Hong Kong, JFK, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco, St Lucia and Washington although some exceptions may apply.

Bookings are not accepted for pets landing or leaving the UK on a Sunday or for pets travelling to the USA over the weekend.

Flights to and from Orland or Miami from 1st June to 30 September.

Minimum cage size is 53cm x 40cm x 38cm

Date published

All information correct as of May 2015

If there are any airlines or information not included here that you would like to know more about, email us at and we'll include the most popular.