Travelling with pets - What to know before you fly?

by PetCloud / Pet Owner Advice / 19 Jun 2020

Travelling with pets

Having your pet on holiday sounds fun, but is it worth travelling with pets? Sometimes it’s unavoidable, so here’s everything you need to know to prepare your pet for flying.

Although long-haul travel for holidays may be still a while off, domestic travel is set to be popular this year and next, especially as airlines have announced sales and cheap fares across Australia. So before you start packing, here’s some important information to consider if you’re wanting to bring your furry friend on a flight with you. And if it’s not right for your pet, then what other options you have.


Is it safe for my pet to fly?

Pets are part of the family and we understand you don’t want to be apart from them. However air travel can be stressful for pets, risky to their health and is not suitable for all pets - so it is best to get tailored advice from your vet. We often hear that lots of pet owners don’t even take holidays because they are worried about travelling with their furry ones.


If you’re wanting to go away for a holiday, business trip or a mini-break and can’t or don’t want to bring your pet, our advice would be to use a pet sitting service or house sitter to care for your pet in a relaxing home environment. 


Although sometimes travel with your cat or dog is unavoidable, like relocating - it’s worth considering whether flying is the best method, and if so, here is our advice to make it as safe and as comfortable as possible. However we recommend that you always seek advice from your vet, the airline, the airline freight company or consider a pet relocation specialist for help with the specifics of your pet and the trip.


Airline rules: can you fly with a dog?

Yes, most airlines, including Qantas and Region Express will allow cats, dogs and domestic pets to fly. However there are restrictions. REX allows domestic animals under 30kg in the cabin, but other airlines, including Qantas, will only allow service dogs in the cabin - this means your pet will  have to travel as cargo in the hold. However they are in a special area where the temperature and noise is similar to the passenger cabin, dimly lit so they can see, and are the last to board and first to unboard.


If you’re travelling through Adelaide, Newcastle, Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and Perth then your pet must travel as cargo because these airports don’t allow animals in their terminal buildings. We recommend checking with the airport and airline with regard to rules on your exact route.


Airlines have also flagged there is limited capacity for pet travel. So it’s important to check directly with the airline you plan to travel with before making a booking. If you are making travel plans and your airline doesn’t have capacity for your pet, it’s worth booking a pet sitter to take care of them while you’re away, so that you don't have to cancel your plans.


What are the restrictions?

As well as the weight and cargo restrictions, airlines have specific rules, but general rules for transporting a pet are:

  • You can’t travel with a pet under 8-12 weeks old
  • Animals older than 12 years, sick, injured, pregnant or pet that have recently given birth aren’t allowed to travel without a fit for travel certificate
  • Certain breeds may have further restrictions, including brachycephalic
  • Your pet must be fit and well, and not acting aggressively 
  • You will need to complete the necessary paperwork that lodges the transit of your pet - this applies for domestic and international flights
  • Some countries require quarantine procedures, including returning to Australia
  • You will need to give at least a few days notice to the airline before flying
  • Generally there are no restrictions for domestic travel with pets, except Tasmania requires dogs to be treated for hydatid tapeworms prior to entry, and WA requires you check their fur for seeds, but it is always useful to double check the latest guidance

How much does it cost to fly a pet interstate?

Prices differ from airline to airline, but animals aren’t included in any free baggage allowance, and are charged separately due to the additional level of attention needed. Some airlines charge by weight of the animal including the pet carrier, others offer set prices by their container sizes. The price is also affected by whether you’ll be travelling on the flight with them, as unaccompanied will be more; whether it’s a domestic or international or flight, and whether there are any lay-overs.


Prices for an accompanied domestic ticket in Australia will be up to a few hundred dollars, but it’s important to factor in other fees such as vet certificates and purchasing suitable travel boxes.

Will it be ok to take a French Bulldog or a Pug on a flight?

Brachycephalic breeds (also known as “Snub-nosed” breeds) are breeds with a short face and nose like the Pug, English bulldog, French bulldog, Pekingese, Boston Terrier, and Persian cats, and can have breathing problems. 


Cats and dogs regulate their body temperature through the respiration process - for example dogs panting. So although all pets can get heat stress when flying, brachycephalic breeds are at a greater risk due to their restricted respiratory system.


Travelling with these breeds is more risky for them and is a sensitive process. You need to think about more factors, like when you’ll be travelling - for example picking a cooler time of day, Summer vs Winter. Some airlines advise that they don’t accept brachycephalic breeds on flights, there are restrictions on the time of year they can fly, or they are flown at the owner’s risk if there is a health problem or death.


Although not impossible for a brachycephalic breed to fly, we would recommend you seek advice from your vet. 


Prepping your pet for flying

Your cat or dog won’t be able to leave the container from the point of lodging them until they are collected at the destination, so give them plenty of exercise and toilet trips before the flight. Check them in as late as possible. Keep them hydrated and you can give them a light meal before the flight.


Following IATA regulation, sedation is generally not recommended for pets travelling by air due to the health and safety concerns.

Getting the right pet container
Containers should comply with the current IATA Live Animal Regulations. Some airlines provide crates depending on the booking, others will expect you to provide your own. If you do need to supply your own, you can purchase a flight-approved container or hire one from a pet relocation specialist.

The container needs to be big enough to allow room for your pet to turn around while standing, to sit erect and to lie in a natural position. Choose a container that has a water container attached that can be refilled from the outside. Food is usually not needed for domestic flights, for international flights check the IATA recommendations for food/food containers. Containers made entirely of welded mesh or wire mesh are not suitable for air transport.

You may want to introduce your pet to the container in a positive way before the trip so they get accustomed to it.

In Australia, pets are loaded underneath the plane where cargo is. Passengers sit above the cargo hull.

Before your flight recap

  1. Notify the airline and book your pet on to the flight with enough notice before travelling
  2. Check the country and state requirements for pets to enter - do they require any pre-medical treatment? If travelling internationally do they need additional paperwork or a quarantine period?
  3. Complete all of the relevant paperwork with the airline’s freight department
  4. Visit your vet to make sure your pet is fit and healthy to travel and get a certificate if needed
  5. Research suitable containers - does the airline provide one for transit? Or do you need to purchase or hire a suitable one? 
  6. Don’t sedate your pet (unless your vet advises otherwise)
  7. Check in as late as you can to reduce the waiting time


Have a safe trip!