I have been traveling with Shark for more than a year now: from the Indian ocean to North Africa, then Europe and finally South America. During this year, my dog and I traveled together on 9 flights: 3 national flights (1-2 hours each), 4 international flights (3-4 hours each) and 2 intercontinental flights (12 hours each). So yes, I have some experience in traveling with a dog by air 🙂 Many of you asked me for tips and some may consider taking their dog along on their next vacation. So finally here it is! All you need to know before traveling with your dog by air.
PART 1: BEFORE THE TRAVEL
1 – THINK WELL
Traveling with a dog by air is not as difficult and expensive as you probably imagine. But it’s not as easy and affordable as traveling solo either. So be sure to have all the necessary information before taking your decision. Keep in mind that traveling with your dog requires a good sense of responsibility (since you will be responsible of his safety) but also organization (to provide the right documents and container in advance) and some strength! Indeed, you will have to carry the container to put it on the conveyer or the trolley if you are alone… Finally, if you dog has health issues or if he is really too nervous, you might reconsider or choose another transportation.
2 – COLLECT INFORMATION
This is a very important step! Look for the right information both about the airline conditions and the destination country’s regulations.
- Compare different airlines: prices and requirements of animal transportation vary a lot. Some airlines don’t accept dogs in the hold, others accept them depending with conditions, and some others charge you depending on the dog’s weight (as if he was a suitcase!). Search for “pet transportation” directly on the airline’s website. If you don’t find this section, that’s not good so you’d rather look for another company.
- Check out all the pet transportation regulations of the country you will take your dog too. Regulations vary a lot too. Some countries forbid pet importation, others have quarantine rules but most of them only requires health documents. Visit IATA’s website (International Air Transport Association) for trustful information.
3- VISIT YOUR VET
Once you have collected all the information, make an appointment with your vet well in advance to talk about the vaccines, documents and other health-related issues. Read this article to be sure to comply with all the sanitary regulations.
4- PURCHASE A TRAVEL CONTAINER
Unfortunately, your dog is not allowed to seat next to you in the plane, even if you buy him a ticket 🙂 The only exception is if you take a private jet. If not, you need to buy a travel container either he travels in the cabin or in the hold. I strongly advise you to buy in a cage certified by the IATA (International Air Transport Association). Read this document to choose the right container. If the container doesn’t meet these standards, the airline can refuse your dog. You can buy a container online on Air France shopping website for exemple.
5- BOOK YOUR TICKETS
Well, now that you are sure to take your dog along, that you have all the information and the container, it’s time to book your flight! Keep in mind that your dog will spend more that the flight’s duration in his container. You should add 2 hours between the check-in and the boarding, and at least 30-45 minutes until he gets to oversized baggage claim. For flights that last more than 6 hours, I personally prefer night flights for the well-being of my dog. This way she keeps her natural rhythm: awaken by day and asleep in her cage by night. If you have connections, you need to get your dog and check him again on the next flight. Make sure to have at least 4 hours in-between to give your dog some time to relax, walk outside the airport and have a pee. Most airlines don’t allow you to make your dog’s reservation online. You need to contact the call center or go to one of their agencies to make sure your dog will be on the same flight than you. I strongly advise you to take care of that as soon as you book your ticket.
NEXT POST: all my doggy travel tips for the D-day!
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