Flying with a dog or cat from the United Kingdom (UK) in the cabin or hold is possible, though perhaps not always simple! There are some pet friendly airlines flying from the UK that permit dogs and cats to travel in both the cabin and hold of the plane. As with all global pet friendly commercial airlines, only small pets are permitted to fly in the cabin from the UK, as well as registered Assistance & Service Dogs. Larger cats and dogs must travel in the hold of the aircraft, either as checked baggage or cargo. Brachycephalic (snub-nosed) breeds aren’t allowed to fly in the hold due to breathing issues, and they may only fly in the cabin. In line with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), each airline has a pet travel policy, which stipulates the size and weight restrictions for flying with pets from the UK in the cabin or cargo hold. However, it’s not just the airline policy that you must adhere to when flying with your pet, but also the regulations of your destination country. For example, if you’re travelling to an EU member states, small pets are permitted by law to fly in the plane cabin. Whereas, some worldwide destinations don’t permit pets to enter in the cabin of a commercial plane, which is the case for entering the UK and Ireland. Keep reading to find out how to fly from the UK to the EU with a cat, dog or ferret.
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Table of contents
- Difference between Pets flying in Hold as Checked Baggage or Cargo
- Flying from the UK to EU Countries with a Pet
- Flying from the UK to EU with Snub-nosed Cat & Dog Breeds
- Documentation for UK to EU Pet Travel
- Airlines that Permit Pets Flying from the UK in the Hold
- Flying with a Cat or Dog in the Cabin from the UK
- Related Pages
Difference between Pets flying in Hold as Checked Baggage or Cargo
As you’ll see in our detailed airline pet travel policies, for cats and dogs travelling in the hold, you’ll notice that some airlines accept pets either as checked baggage, cargo, or both. If your cat or dog flies as checked baggage, the airline is responsible for transporting your pet to the hold of the plane. Whereas, when you pet travels as cargo, an external pet travel company will assume responsibility for transporting your pet to the aircraft hold.
Flying a Cat or Dog as Checked Baggage
When your pet flies as checked baggage, the reservation is made through the pet friendly airline, therefore the airline is completely responsible for all aspects of travel.
On pet travel day, you take your pet, in their IATA compliant travel crate, to the airport desk in order to check them in for transport. Staff will usually follow a checklist to ensure that your cat or dog meets all the conditions of carriage. After the checks have been performed by airline staff, you then take your cat or dog to the appointed area so that they can be transferred to the aircraft hold. This is usually in or around the oversized baggage section of the airport, which is close to the check-in desks. The airline staff will tell you exactly where to take your pet once you’ve checked in, and also how you’ll be reunited upon arrival at your destination.
Check out the differences between flying a pet as checked baggage or cargo.
Flying a Cat or Dog as Cargo
On the other hand, when your pet flies as cargo, the transport is arranged with a pet cargo courier company. Sometimes, airlines have their own cargo arm to transport pets. You’ll notice that airlines such as British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic don’t accept pets as checked baggage when flying to or from the UK. However, they do offer the option to fly your cat or dog in the hold as cargo.
Some pet friendly airlines accept cats and dogs flying from the UK as both checked baggage and cargo, whereas others, like BA and Virgin only accept one or the other.
In addition, pets weighing over around 75kg must usually travel as cargo, as airlines only accept cats and dogs as checked baggage up to a certain weight and size. The exact weight accepted as checked baggage depends on the airline’s policy. It may also be the case that certain breeds of dogs classed as ‘dangerous’, which can be specified either by the airline or your destination country, may only travel as cargo. In some cases, dogs classed as ‘dangerous’ or ‘fighting’ breeds can’t travel with an airline, or be imported to a specific country.
For pets flying as cargo, your chosen airline will have a pre-selected pet cargo supplier. Popular choices across airlines are Pet Air UK and IAG Cargo. Each of these companies has decades of experience in pet transport.
For pets travelling from the UK, IAG Cargo has a partnership with Pet Air UK that means all cats, dogs and other animals will be transported by Pet Air UK.
A pet flying as cargo is a different process to flying as checked baggage, as you won’t take your pet to the airline check in desk at the airport. Instead, the cargo company will advise you where to take your pet on the day of travel, and their staff will carry out the necessary checks to ensure the conditions of carriage are met.
Flying from the UK to EU Countries with a Pet
The good news is that if you’re travelling with a pet from the UK to continental Europe, you can fly with a cat or dog in the cabin or hold. All countries in the EU adhere to the EU Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), so the same rules apply across the board. Therefore you can easily take your cat or dog on holiday to popular destinations such as France, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Germany, Holland and Italy.
And more good news! Once you’re in mainland Europe, you’ll find a myriad of pet friendly EU airlines to explore the continent with your cat or dog.
Our complete guide will keep you right on the paperwork you need to enter the EU from GB or Northern Ireland with a cat, dog or ferret.
Flying from the UK to EU with Snub-nosed Cat & Dog Breeds
While you can fly cats and dogs to the EU from the UK in the cabin or hold, you may face a conundrum if you’re travelling with a snub-nosed (brachycephalic) breed. The term brachycephalic comes from the Greek words meaning short and head.
Across the globe, ethical airlines don’t allow brachycephalic cat and dog breeds to fly in the hold of the aircraft. This is due to the possibility of severe respiratory issues that they may encounter when flying in the ventilated, temperature controlled climate in the hold.
Therefore, if you’re planning a trip from the UK to EU with one of these cat or dog breeds, you can take them in the aircraft cabin with you, provided that they meet the airline’s size and weight restrictions. Some airlines do permit snub-nosed cats and dogs to fly in the hold as cargo, rather than checked baggage, but this isn’t recommended. Truly, it’s not worth the risk to your pet’s health, or life.
Like many owners of snub-nosed pets, you might find it difficult to fly with them in the cabin, due to strict size and weight restrictions. However, there’s plenty of other options for travelling to an EU country from the UK, such as a pet friendly ferry or Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Check out 3 Easy Ways to Enter France from the UK with a Pet.
Also, be aware that when returning to the UK from the EU, only registered Assistance or Service Dogs are allowed to fly in the cabin. All other animals must travel in the hold as cargo when entering the UK on a commercial flight. So, if you’re able to fly your snub-nosed cat or dog from the UK to EU in the cabin, you won’t be able to do this for the return journey.
Documentation for UK to EU Pet Travel
In order to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, following Brexit on 1 January 2021, the UK (Scotland, England, Wales & Northern Ireland) is now operating under different EU Pet Travel Scheme rules.
The pet travel regulations you must follow depend on whether you’re taking a pet to the EU from Great Britain (Scotland, England & Wales), or Northern Ireland.
Great Britain (GB) became a Part 2 Listed Third Country from 1 January 2021, therefore if you have an EU Pet Passport issued in a GB country, it can no longer be used to travel to the EU.
However, on 15 September 2021, the NI Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA) announced that checks on all pet dogs, cats and ferrets travelling from GB to NI would be suspended indefinitely while negotiations between the UK government and EU continue. You can read more about this announcement on the DAERA website.
Therefore, at the moment, no pet travel documentation is required to travel from GB to Northern Ireland. You’ll therefore have to obtain documents that will replace the EU Pet Passport from an official veterinarian to travel from Scotland, England or Wales to the EU with your dog, cat or ferret.
When travelling with your pet from GB to the EU, your cat, dog or ferret must have:
- A working Microchip
- An up to date Rabies Vaccination – You have to wait 21 days after the primary vaccination before travel.
- An Animal Health Certificate (AHC), obtained from a licensed veterinarian no more than 10 days before travel to the EU from GB.
- A Tapeworm Treatment – only if your dog is travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Norway or Malta. Your dog will need to receive treatment 1 to 5 days before arriving in any of these countries, and your veterinarian must enter full details on the AHC following treatment.
Northern Ireland (NI) is currently subject to the same pet travel scheme rules as EU member states. Subsequently, if you hold an EU Pet Passport issued in NI, your veterinarian can endorse this document to allow you to travel to the EU. If this is the first time travelling with your pet from NI to the EU, and you don’t currently have any travel documentation for your cat, dog or ferret, your veterinarian can arrange an EU Pet Passport.
Airlines that Permit Pets Flying from the UK in the Hold
Some of the pet friendly airlines you can use to fly your pet from the UK to the EU in the hold are:
- Aegean Airlines
- Air France
- Air Malta
- Austrian Airlines
- British Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- Czech Airlines
- Egypt Air
- Swiss Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
Also remember that all airlines have size, weight and breed restrictions for pets they permit to travel in the hold of the plane. Your cat or dog’s travel crate will also have to adhere to International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations. It’s a good idea to calculate the minimum IATA inner dimensions for your cat or dog’s airline kennel.
You can also check out our full list of airline pet travel policies to find the most suitable options available for your adventure.
Airlines that Don’t Allow Pets to Travel in the Hold of the Plane
When choosing a pet friendly airline to fly your cat or dog from the UK to the EU, you can avoid the following airline policies as they don’t accept cats, dogs or other pets in the hold, either as checked baggage or cargo:
Flying with a Cat or Dog in the Cabin from the UK
While there’s a plethora of pet friendly airlines offering a pet in the hold flight service from the UK to Europe, the same can’t be said for dogs and cats travelling in the cabin. The limited list of airlines below currently permit cats and dogs to fly in the cabin from the UK to continental Europe. But, at least there are options!
With these airlines, you can fly directly from the UK to EU countries such as France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Holland and Germany, with your cat or dog in the cabin:
- Aegean Airlines
- Air France
(Note that Air France flights operated by HOP don’t have the same rules as the rest of the Air France/KLM group)
- Brussels Airlines
- Swiss Airlines
- Tap Air Portugal
Read more about flying a pet in the cabin from the UK to the EU.
Airlines that Don’t Allow Pets to Travel in the Cabin of the Plane
When flying from the UK, airlines that don’t permit pets to travel in the cabin to the EU include:
Thankfully, flying with a cat or dog in the cabin is very easy in mainland Europe. For your return trip from the EU to the UK, be aware that no animals, except Assistance & Service Dogs can fly in the cabin of a commercial aircraft.
When travelling with your pet, remember to protect your cat or dog against vector borne diseases from ticks, sandflies, mosquitoes and fleas.