An owner is flying with pets and puts their white in a crate to get them used to it beforehand

Flying with Pets: Airlines, Booking and Costs


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Flying with pets is possible in Australia and, in the era of the fur baby, more and more people are doing it. While not every domestic airline carries pets, those that do put pets in the cargo hold. This said, Virgin may be changing its pet travel parameters soon to allow small pets in cabin. Let’s explore this topic with Easter on the horizon and holiday travel in our minds…

In this article, PD Insurance unpacks answers to common questions around flying with pets in Australia. We’ll also take a closer look what Virgin is planning for the in-cabin pet travel experience.

Find out what jet setting with your cat or dog en-tails, from booking and costs to choosing airlines.

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

Is flying with pets possible in Australia?

In general, the answer is yes. Pets can travel by air on the same flight as you but at the moment only Assistance Dogs are allowed to join passengers in the cabin. However, Virgin plans to change this with their new pet travel announcement, highlighted further down.

Here’s the list of Australian airlines that generally are pet friendly and/or Assistance Dog friendly:

While flying with pets is possible and becoming more common, not every airline, airport, route, or aeroplane takes pets. Each airline may have slightly different rules, so always contact them in advance to check on your and your pet’s requirements. This helps you plan and also helps the airline plan.

Book early when flying with pets

The weather and cargo capacity are just some of the many moving parts airlines may need to consider when flying pets. As a result, airlines that take pets recommend you book your pet’s flight before you book your own, to avoid disappointment.

Check if your pet can fly with the airline each time you fly, case-by-case. Even if you’ve flown your pet with the same airline before, the parameters of flying with pets often change. 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.

As mentioned, the only furry friends allowed in the cabin area are registered Assistance Dogs. All other fur kids 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.

Let’s see what Virgin is saying about changing their pet travel parameters on this topic…

A Virgin airlines attendant helping a pet owner with travel check in

Does Virgin airlines allow dogs in cabin?

Virgin’s 2021 Facebook survey showed that 81% of respondents would like pets allowed with them in the airline cabin. Its more recent pet travel research shows that almost 70% of pet owners would use this option if it was made available. 57% even said they’d fly more often as a result.

Virgin has taken these pet travel statistics seriously.

On Thursday 7 March 2024, the airline announced its intention “to be the country’s first airline to operate flights with pets onboard” in a media release. Virgin hopes to carry small dogs and cats in cabin for domestic flights starting in the next 12 months.

“Our love for animals has always been in the Virgin Australia DNA and we are excited at the prospect of taking off with Australia’s first-ever pets in cabin flights.”

– Virgin Australia Group CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka

If everything goes according to plan, Virgin will allow small dogs and cats in cabin for pet travel. There will be seating designated for people travelling with pets while passengers who don’t want to be near animals will be able to book seating in another area of the plane.

A Virgin air hostess helping a woman with pet travel arrangements prior to flying with pets

Is your pet 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 getting vaccinations plus worm, flea, and tick treatments up to date.

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. If you’re travelling to Tasmania pets may also need to have a Hydatids Tapeworm treatment. Check with your airline and vet.

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. A cat or dog pheromone spray may be helpful, for example.

Watch this PD Pet Care Vlog with Sadie the dog and Dr Cath Watson to see what happens in a vet health check:

Keeping brachycephalic breeds safe while flying

Not all airlines allow brachycephalic breeds on flights; these include Bulldogs and Pug dogs, and Persian and Himalayan cats. All have been bred to have flatter faces, with their snub noses making breathing difficult and often leading to life threatening health problems like obstructive airways and overheating.

That’s why Qantas and Virgin banned these breeds from pet travel for a while to keep them safe. That ban seems to have since been lifted but if you want to travel with a brachycephalic breed you’ll need book through a Qantas or Virgin pet transport specialist. Rex airlines won’t carry brachycephalic breeds.

Restricted breeds are a no-go

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.

A Pug stands in the doorway of a house alongside luggage and a cactus as it gets ready to say goodbye to its owner who is heading off for a business trip

How much does flying with pets cost?

When you’re flying with your pet the cost depends on a couple of factors and the airline you’re going with. Airfare is generally charged by the combined weight of your pet and its crate (and crate size) plus extras like a water bowl.

Sometimes there are restrictions on the weight. For example, if your pet plus crate weighs more than 30kg, Rex Airlines consigns them as freight. Virgin doesn’t accept a weight over 65kg. Qantas lists their crate sizes here.

Pets in crates

If you’re buying a crate rather than hiring one or using one you already own, then it’s a good idea to get it well in advance. You’ll need to be sure the type of crate is approved by your chosen airline.

  • Crate requirements. Qantas lists its pet crate requirements along with acceptable sizes in its website’s pets area (see link above), while both Virgin and Rex recommend contacting Jet Pets or Dogtainers (Rex also recommends Dogtainers) for advice on the correct crate specifications. Dogtainers hires out and sells crates – take your pick.
  • Crate size. 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.
  • Crate training. Your cat or dog should get familiar with their crate and put their scent on it. Take your pet on a drive or several 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. Ideally you should crate train a puppy or kitten well before taking them onboard a flight.

Practice makes perfect!

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

Ready, set go! with this travel 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.

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 throughout. This is also important when they’re being loaded and unloaded, when they’ll be exposed to real temperatures without air-conditioning.

Flying with pets checklist

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

  • Find out in advance where the pet drop-off and pick-up points are
  • Know that 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 to their travel crate, as well as their collar
  • Travel with your pet’s papers and records, including the pet information checklist you’ll have 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).

A couple on holiday with their Labrador Retriever relax at their pet friendly holiday cabin in the woods after flying with Virgin pet travel to arrive there

Pet friendly accommodation and travel tips

Get inspired to travel with pets with more PD Insurance travel guides:

Now you have plenty of ideas pouring in alongside our useful travel tips for furry family members, here’s something else to consider…

Award winning pet insurance

Whether you’re flying with pets, taking a road trip or strolling in the park it’s clever to consider getting pet insurance beforehand. Make sure your pet is well protected in case they get sick or injured with a pet plan that helps cover many of these vet costs.

You’ll be happy to also know all our pet insurance plans include third-party liability. This means you’ll be covered for damage your pet causes to others’ property or other people. This could be a nerve buster if you’re staying at pet friendly accommodation because you never know what pets will get up to. If Fido poops on the guesthouse linen or Felix eats their pet parakeet… or worse… your pet insurance can help you pay the costs.

Most of all, vet bills can be costly and pet insurance can help fill the gap. Get award winning pet cover for cats and dogs before things go wrong so you’ll have it when you need it. Plus, you get one or more months of FREE pet insurance when you buy your plan with PD Insurance. Click below to get a quote.

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