Flying with Pets this Easter Holiday

These two dogs are on their way to the airport for an Easter holiday, travelling by air.

Are you thinking of flying with pets this Easter holiday? If you are it wouldn’t be surprising. So too if you’re thinking about a roadtrip with your pet (if so, read our simple ways to pet proof your car).

Since COVID-19 hit, many of us have become even more attached to our fur-legged friends. We feel at home wherever our pets are, and as a result we wouldn’t dream of holidaying without them. Naturally, for many of us this includes Easter flights. But is this possible?

And if so, what does jet setting with your cat or dog en-tail?

Find out here:

Flying with pets and COVID-19

Many domestic airlines that fly pets have suspended their pet carrying facilities while COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantines are in place.

Virgin Australia – which is usually super pet-friendly – currently recommends using a commercial pet transport company like Jetpets or Dogtainer during this time.

Is flying with pets possible in Australia?

In general, the answer is yes – pets can travel by air on the same flight as you. Just not with every airline, airport, route, or aeroplane.

That’s a lot of moving parts in your travel plans. Which is why airlines that do take pets recommend you book your pet’s flight before you book your own, to avoid disappointment.

Here’s the list of Australian airlines that are (usually) pet friendly and/or assistance dog friendly, together with their pet guidelines pages:

Remember to check if your pet can fly with each time you fly, case-by-case. Even if you’ve flown your pet with the same airline at another time. Because even when pet travel is not hampered by COVID-19, there are a few other (ever-changing) factors to consider. For example, an airline that carries pets sometimes won’t accommodate them on a particular route or even time of day.

Sometimes it’s the airport and not the airline that won’t allow pets. The number of pet crates allowed on flights is also limited. In other words a flight might have seats for you but be fully booked for pets.

In addition, the only furry friends allowed in the cabin area, are registered assistance dogs.

All other fur babies travel in a special compartment of the cargo hold, below the cabin. This is a pressurised area (just like the cabin) where the air temperature is regulated to keep them safe.

This puppy is having their pre-flight vet checkup to get their vaccinations, worm, flea, and tick treatments up to date.

Fit to fly

Just like humans, your pet needs to be fit for air travel.

By this we mean your fur kid must be older than eight weeks old and have a clean bill of health. Take them for a vet check-up within two weeks of your flight to have their health checked. This includes making sure vaccinations plus worm, flea, and tick treatments are up to date. And if you’re travelling to Tasmania, they’ll need to have a Hydatids Tapeworm treatment.

While you’re there, ask your vet for a certificate stating your pet’s clean bill of health. You might be asked for this at check-in on the day, so be sure to bring it with you.

Unless your vet recommends it, don’t sedate your pet for the day of flying. However, if your pet is an anxious traveller, ask your vet for something to help them feel calm. Like a cat or dog pheromone spray.

Air travel pet restrictions

For health and safety reasons, some breeds are no longer allowed to fly. This includes snub-nosed breeds (and crossbreeds) who can suffer from in-flight breathing difficulties and heat stress. For example, bulldogs, pug dogs, and Persian and Himalayan cats.

In addition, breeds that are restricted in Australia also won’t be allowed to fly. These include breeds like wolfdogs and pit bulls. View Virgin’s full list of restricted breeds to check if your cat or dog can fly, or the list from your chosen airline.

If possible, avoid booking a midday flight. Try instead for an early morning or evening flight to help keep your pet cool as a cucumber during their flight. This is also important when they’re being loaded and unloaded, when they’ll be exposed to real temperatures without air-conditioning.

Flight costs for your pet

Your pet’s airfare will be charged according to the combined weight of your pet and the crate as well as the size of the crate. Pricing depends on the airline. And the combined weight of your pet and their crate has some restrictions. For example, Rex airlines won’t accept a pet plus crate weight over 30kg. In which case you will need to freight with Dogtainers. Virgin doesn’t accept a weight over 65kg. And if the weight is over 65kg, Qantas requires a telephonic booking, rather than an online booking .

Qantas lists pet crate requirements here, while both Virgin and Rex airlines recommend contacting Dogtainers for advice on the correct crate specifications. Dogtainers hires out and sells crates – take your pick.

If you’re buying a crate rather than hiring/using one you already own, then it’s a good idea to get it well in advance. Your cat or dog can get familiar with their crate and put their scent on it. Take your pet on a drive in their new crate to help them get used to travelling in it. You could also put inside a shirt or toy that has your scent on it, to help your fur kid see it as a safe space.

Your pet’s travel crate needs to be big enough for them to stand up and turn around in. However, it shouldn’t be too big lest the plane experience turbulence. It must be well-ventilated and have a fixed water bowl with a top up receptacle on the outside.

Pets that are super strong will need to be in a metal or wooden container, according to the following guidelines. This is why some airlines won’t accept wire containers. Pets who are aggressive or sick generally won’t be allowed to fly either.

This cat has just come home from the airport after an Easter flight with it's pet parent.

Travelling with pets: final checklist

OK! We’re almost there. Now, remember, flying is not a typical sensation for your furry friend, nor is it something you can really explain to them beforehand. Along with getting the right crate size, making sure they travel on an empty stomach is one of the key ways to ensure a comfortable flight.

Don’t feed them a full meal within eight hours leading up to the flight. This will reduce the likelihood of a number two, sore tummy, and possible vomiting. Water is fine because staying hydrated is important.

Here’s your handy checklist of additional pet air travel tips:

  • Find out where the pet drop-off and pick-up points are in advance
  • Check-in for pets usually opens two hours before boarding and closes 90 mins prior to departure
  • Make sure your cat or dog has ample opportunities to go to the toilet before travelling
  • Attach your pet’s ID tag attached to their travel crate, as well as their collar
  • Travel with your pet’s papers and records as there is a pet information checklist which is filled in at the airport
  • Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll need your ID and pet’s papers to collect your pet
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped because you never know when it might go astray

Once you’re reunited, open the crate door with care. Your cat or dog may be super excited to see you and dash out their crate into an unknown environment (in which case, read these tips to find your lost pet).

Pet plans

Airlines don’t offer insurance for pets. So, speak to your pet insurer to make sure your pet is well protected in case they get sick or injured while travelling. You’ll be happy to also know all our pet insurance plans include third-party liability – which means you’ll be covered for any damage they cause to others’ property or other people.

So, if Fido poops on the guesthouse linen, or Felix eats their pet parakeet… your pet insurance plan will help ease the costs.

Flying with pets – over to you

Are you flying with pets this Easter holiday? Share a holiday snapshot with your pet on our Facebook page. And share your experience with other PD Insurance pet mums and dads in the comments below!

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