Flying pets around the world can be complicated and stressful.Lance and Jill Barrowman, who arranged for their pets Elsa and Buster to fly a 38-hours journey from South Africa to Canada, have this expert advice for other owners.
Elsa is a Jack Russell and Buster is a Border Collie. The dogs flew from Durban to Johannesburg and then to Amsterdam, where they had a stopover. They then continued on to Vancouver, where they had a layover before continuing on to Terrace in British Columbia. Their total travel time was 38 hours.
Elsa and Buster’s schedule was dictated by a number of factors, including airport and airline services, but also flight time restrictions on animals.
“Firstly, I had been told about the excellent pet kennel at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, and this helped us plan our route. Choosing an airline and a route is a big thing – doing some research on other people's experiences can help,” she says.
“The dogs were not allowed to fly for more than 12 hours at a time, so they flew to Amsterdam in the hold of our plane and stayed in the pet cargo section at Schiphol Airport overnight while we continued our journey. They overnighted again in Vancouver because of the 10-hour flight from Amsterdam."
“On our flight, the staff were incredibly helpful and came to us when we boarded and noted that we had dogs on board. The flight attendant came back later to tell us the pilot had reported the conditions in the cargo hold were stable and good for the dogs.”
Ask friends, check online pet forums, and post questions on social media groups for recommendations and reviews from other owners. You’ll find them easily browsing the web, they can be dedicated space on traveler forum, like on trip advisor or , dedicated to pet travel some are specific depending on your country, but also on your favorite(s) animal(s) .
Key questions to ask include kennel facilities at the airports on your route and airline recommendations.
See the airline’s pet policy (the links for all A380 airlines are below), ask questions and ensure you are comfortable with the airline before booking.
“Choose the fastest and best way for your pet,” says Jill. “If at all possible, put comfort before budget when it comes to pet travel.”
“We started planning at least three months ahead,” says Jill. “Ensure you know your timelines. For example, you will need a state vet certificate and this may need to be issued within a certain number of days before you fly."
“We had to supply proof that both dogs had had their vaccinations, including for kennel cough, and that they had had tick and flea medication. Any medical conditions also need to be stated."
“You will need to have them microchipped – make sure the microchip is internationally recognized. We also checked with our vet that our chip was valid in all the countries on our route.”
Some animals will be able to leave the airport with you, but some countries require a period of quarantine. You should check with your airline so you can make the necessary preparations.
In the hold or in the cabin?
Most long-haul flights require pets to be taken in the plane’s hold, though there are exceptions.
“It depends on the airline’s policy, the route and the destination. All our international flights have all required the dogs to be put in the hold, especially as Buster is a medium to large dog,” says Jill. “However I've flown internally in Canada with a small dog in the cabin – you just have to ensure their size and weight are under the minimum and that they can move in their travel crate.”
Assistance dogs for people with disabilities are generally permitted in cabins. Emotional assistance animals are also sometimes permitted if you have the necessary paperwork.
Jill says that regardless of where your pet travels, it’s important to ensure they have a suitable crate for the journey. “You need to ensure your crate is the correct size and that your pet can stand up and move around in it."
“Pets cannot travel with calming collars or any other accessories that might present a danger,” says Jill.
"It can be a good idea to choose a crate with a pouch on the outside so you can store their collar, harness or lead there so you have them on arrival", says Jill.
Trying the crate out in advance is also a good idea.
“We drove from Cape Town to Durban with the dogs in their crates before they flew so that they got used to their crates and felt comfortable in them,” she says.
“If you have a big dog, consider what you will do when you arrive. We couldn’t fit Buster's large crate in the car we had reserved in Canada, so we had to leave it at the airport. Luckily, a lady at the airport was traveling soon with her dog, so she took it.”
Here are Jill’s top tips for the airport:
Put shredded paper in the crate for any mess, but don’t use newsprint as it's not good for pets.
Pack an item of your own worn clothing – like a T-shirt – in the crate so they can smell you. Do not leave anything they can swallow or that might hurt them, though.
Take their own bedding and a favorite toy with you in your luggage for when you arrive so they have something familiar.
Freeze a little bit of water in their water bowl so they can lick it when they’re thirsty. They should not eat during transit in case they get motion sickness. Make sure they eat about six hours before they fly.
Don’t forget to take all your paperwork with you, including all vaccination certificates and any other paperwork the airline has requested.
Check ahead with your airline to ensure you understand where you need to pick your pet up and how long this might take.
Take food in your suitcase for when you arrive – again check quarantine rules to ensure you are allowed to bring food in. “Even better,” says Jill, “consider ordering food online and having it delivered to your hotel so you have supplies for when you arrive.”
Jill’s other top tips:
Book your flights and the pets’ travel at the same time so you can travel on the same plane.
Do not tranquilize your pet – this will make them less likely to drink and they may become dehydrated.
Plan ahead to see if you can insure your pet. If so, make sure the insurance will be valid in all countries en route.
Consider using a pet transport service. This can reduce stress as the company will take care of logistics and offer extra support and advice.
More information on traveling with pets on Airbus A380 airlines: