How to Prepare Your Dog for a Plane Journey

How to Prepare Your Dog for a Plane Journey

Every day, thousands of dogs take to the air and head away to foreign lands, eager to sniff out new smells and find new cats to chase. The process of ensuring your dog has a comfortable plane journey can be tough though, as it requires much prior planning. But for those who can’t bear to spend a day without their precious pooch, there’s no other option, so Fido will have to strap on his seatbelt, brave the in-flight entertainment and take to the skies…

The process of preparing your dog for air travel starts well before you are due to fly, and encompasses many different things, from crate training through to last-minute feeding schedules. This article is designed to show you some of the very best ways to prepare your pooch, so read on if you’re planning to fly with your dog anytime soon.

Check Airline Requirements

You might think that all airlines have the same rules regarding dogs, but they don’t. Some will allow you to bring dogs up to a certain size into the cabin (providing they are in a carrier), while others will only allow dogs to be transported in the hold. This could clearly influence your decision regarding which airline to fly with. A simple call to an airline will clear this matter up for you, but try to get them to send you written confirmation, just to avoid any possible mistakes.

It should be mentioned that assistance dogs – guide dogs, seizure dogs, etc. – are allowed to be taken on a plane, and most airlines will accommodate them for free. As before though, it is always good to check before making a booking. Airlines are entitled to ask for evidence that a dog is for assistance though and that it has been trained by an accredited training organization. If they do, you should have plenty of certification to bring along to the airport with you.

On the same theme, you should also check the rules and regulations surrounding bringing dogs into certain countries, as some places simply won’t let them enter. As the UK is rabies-free, the restrictions are sometimes less severe though. It’s always best to check first though, otherwise, your dogs might be getting the next plane home.

AirlineIn-cabin pets OK?Pets per passengerWeight limitMinimum ageCarrier sizeFee (each way)
Aer LingusNo (checked or cargo only)
AeroflotYes18 kg (18 lbs.) totalnot stated“115 cm in three dimensions (length, height, width)”calculated as
excess baggage
AeroMexicoYes (dogs only, on flights 6 hours or less)19 kg total (7 kg total on E-145 planes)8 weeks
(4 mos. for travel to/from USA)
(E-145 planes) or
(all other planes)
$145 to/from USA
Air CanadaYes110 kg (22 lbs.) total12 weeks21.5Lx15.5Wx9H (if soft-sided, can be 10.5″ tall)$50 or $100 CAD/US (depending on destination)
Air FranceYes18 kg (18 lbs.) total10 weeks (8 weeks in “metropolitan France”)not specified; the carrier Air France sells is 42x30x20cm200 from/to USA (EUR, USD or CAD, depending on country of departure)
Air New ZealandNo (checked or cargo only)
AlitaliaYesup to 5 (note A)10 kg total3 mos. (within Europe)17.5Lx8.5Wx10.2H (40x20x24 cm); 2-4 cm taller ok if soft-sided$200 from USA; 200 to USA (EUR, USD or CAD, depending on country of departure)
American AirlinesYes (but not transatlantic)1 carriernot stated8 weeks19Lx13Wx9H
(slightly larger ok if
ANA All Nippon AirwaysNo (checked only)
Asiana AirlinesYes1 carrier (note B)5 kg total8 weeks“The sum of width, depth and height of the cage is less than 115cm and the height is 21cm or shorter
(Up to 25cm for soft cases)”
calculated as
excess baggage
AviancaYes1not stated8 weeksnot stated$125 to/from USA
British AirwaysNo (cargo only)
Cathay Pacific AirlinesNo (checked or cargo only)
Copa AirlinesYes120 lbs. total8 weeks17Lx13Wx7.5H (hard-sided);
18Lx11Wx11H (soft-sided)
DeltaYes (though not U.K., Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Hong Kong, UAE, Dubai, Dakar, Barbados, Jamaica)1 (note C)not stated10 weeksvaries by plane; call Reservationsfee varies; 200 “outside the U.S.” (EUR, USD or CAD, depending on country of departure)
EmiratesNo (checked or cargo only)
EtihadNo (cargo only)
EVA AirNo (checked only)
IberiaYes1+ (note D)8 kg totalnot stated“The container may be a maximum of 45 cm in length, 35 cm in width and 25 cm in depth, provided that the sum of those 3 measurements does not exceed 105 cm.”150 (EUR or USD, depending on flight), “except for return flights with origin in Brazil. The charge per animal for those flights is USD 240.”
IcelandairNo (checked or cargo only)
JALNo (checked or cargo only)
KLMYes18 kg (18 lbs.) totalnot stated“max. dimensions 46 (length) x 28 (width) x 24 (height) cm, or in a hard kennel with max. dimensions 46 (length) x 28 (width) x 20 (height) cm”“The costs depend on the destination.”
Korean AirYes1 (note E)5 kg (11 lbs.) total8 weeks“No larger than 115 cm (45 in; for economy class, the height should be less than 20cm (8in) (soft cages can be 26 cm high (10 in)”KRW 200,000/USD 200/CAD 200/IDR 2,860,000 between Asia and America
LANYes115 lbs. total8 weeks (4 mos. for travel to USA)14Lx13Wx7H (hard-sided);
14Lx13Wx9H (soft-sided)
$200 for “international routes”
LufthansaYes18 kg totalnot stated55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm70 EUR,
100 USD/
CAD (intercontinental)
Open SkiesYes16 kg (13.2 lbs.) totalnot stated“length 45 cm x width 30 cm x height 24 cm”$196 or 125€
QantasNo (checked or cargo only)
Qatar AirwaysNo (checked or cargo only)
SASYes18 kg total8 weeks40 x 25 x 23 cm/16 x 10 x 9″€91/$120 to US/Asia
Singapore AirlinesNo (checked or cargo only)
SwissYes18 kg totalnot stated“118 cm (length + width + height)”fee varies; Switzerland-Intercontinental fee is CHF 90
TAP PortugalYes1 carrier
(note F)
8 kg (17 lbs.) totalnot stated“The pet container may not exceed 45cm in length, 30cm in width and 23cm in height”150€ (intercontinental)
THAINo (checked only)
Turkish AirlinesYes1 in-cabin carrier
(note G)
8 kg total8 weeks“The size of allowed cages/bags for pets in the cabin is 23x40x55 cm (width x height x length)calculated as
excess baggage
UnitedYes: “Rules for international in-cabin pets vary. For additional assistance or information, or to book international in-cabin travel for a pet, contact the United Customer Contact Center.”not statednot statednot statednot statednot stated
Virgin AtlanticNo (checked or cargo only)


Select the Best Carrier

If you are going to be taking your dog into the cabin with you, you’ll need to ensure that they have the very best carrier possible. This means that it should be strong, and should have enough space for them to move around comfortably. It shouldn’t be too large though, as flying might not agree with your pooch, so they might feel more comfortable snuggling up into a tighter space. Some of the very best dog carriers are found at Top Dog Apparel, so why not check out their selection soon?

It is really important to acclimatize your dog to their carrier well before the plane journey though, as many of them won’t like having to use one. To do this, practice putting them in one for a few minutes at a time, eventually building up the length of time as they become more comfortable. This is also the case if your dog has to go in the hold, and therefore has to be placed in a crate.

There are many great guides to acclimatizing your dog to a carrier or crate online, however, one of the best ones is here. If you conducted crate training with your dog when they were a puppy – something that is recommended by many dog owners – you will probably find that the process goes a lot smoother. Also, remember that older dogs will usually take much longer to train, so bear this in mind when preparing for air travel.

Don't Overfeed

Perhaps the biggest problem with air travel for dogs – especially longer distance trips – is their toilet habits. So, you need to do everything you can to stop them needing a pee or worse on the plane. Of course, it could still happen though, which really can’t be helped. The best solution is to prevent the dog from eating for around six hours before the flight, and then ensure that they are given the chance to go to the loo before they board. Water should also be rationed, however not restricted completely.

One temptation that some owners succumb to is to feed their dog treats before and during the flight, forgetting that these will slowly fill up their stomachs. Don’t feel guilty and constantly ply your canine pal with treats though, as you’ll feel much worse if they have an accident when you’re flying over the Pacific! Instead, give them a favorite toy or two, which will keep them occupied, without the risk of filling their belly.

Sending a dog on a plane journey isn’t something that you’re going to need to do too often, however, it must be done right. If you manage to plan ahead and use the very best dog carrier, you should find that your faithful friend is perfectly fine on their journey through.