Travelling by plane with your dog for the first time can seem quite scary. It can also be quite challenging finding the information you need in advance. After travelling several times by plane with my dogs (for example when we participated in the Nordic Championship in Sweden, or when we participated at European Open in Italy), I have written down my experience and tips, which I hope can be useful for anyone who is travelling by plane with their dog for the first time.
- Check the regulations
- Ordering tickets
- How to find the best crate
- Arrival at the airport and check-in
- Loading the dog onto the airplane
- Collecting the dog at arrival and customs
Check the regulations
The first thing you should do is to check what regulations apply for entering the country you are visiting. Most countries require your dog to have a passport, a microchip for identification and rabies vaccine. Some countries may also require deworming. Check the requirements carefully, and if you are visiting any countries on the way to your destination, remember to check the regulations for these as well.
Also remember to check the rules for coming back to home, and what regulations applies for your own country. For Norway you can check Mattilsynet (link in Norwegian).
During booking some airlines allow you to add your dog directly to your ticket when booking online (for example Norwegian). Other airlines requires you to complete your booking first. Then contact customer service to add your dog to the flight (for example SAS).
Please be aware not all airlines allow dogs, and not all airplanes have space for dogs in cargo. Airlines who do allow dogs do have a limit to amount of dogs per flight.
If you have a small dog you may have it with you in the cabin. However the total weight for crate and dog cannot be over 8 kg. The crate (L 40 cm x W 25 cm x H 23) has to fit under the seat in front of you ). If your dog is larger than this it has to travel in cargo in approved crate.
How to find the best crate
What size the crate needs to be depends on the size of your dog. Requirements are that your dog should be able to stand, turn around and lay in a natural position. The crate must be fully leak-proof and the bottom needs to be covered in a absorbent material.
All airlines usually have maximum crate size and do not allow weld or mesh crates. Some may require a water bowl fastened on the inside of the door, and that you secure the door with zip ties. This is for safety measures in case the door should come loose. I would highly recommend to put your contact information on the crate, regardless of this being a requirement from the airline.
Inside the crate I put down a piece of yoga mat and then warm bedding. This allows for my dog to be warm, but also allows for him to push away the warm bedding but still be comfortable on the soft bedding.
I prefer the type of crate with wheels I can easily clip on which have been amazing to have when I need to move around with me, my luggage, the crate and my dog to and in the airport. I usually put my luggage inside the crate which I then control with one hand and the other hand for my dog.
Arrival at the airport and check-in
When you arrive at the airport you need to find a manned desk (not the self-service ones) where you will be issued a luggage tag for the crate. You will receive information on where and when to deliver the crate and dog.
At the delivery point (usually marked special luggage) they will check the crate by looking inside it and sending it through an x-ray machine. Your dog will normally need to walk through a metal detector and then be placed in the crate, either inside a room or on a trolley (which is after moved into a room). Here the dog will remain until it is time to load the airplane.
Loading the dog onto the airplane
After you have gone through security and found your gate, you can usually observe the loading your dog onto the plane. The process is normally like this:
- The crates are driven out to the plane on a trolley. It will vary on how long the dogs are left outside before being loaded onto the airplane.
- Two crew members will lift the crate (or place it on a conveyor belt) up to the loading hatch.
- Inside the hatch is another crew member who will place the crate and secure it with straps. Inside the cargo the temperature is the same as inside the cabin.
Collecting the dog at arrival and customs
When you land you dog will be unloaded the same way it was loaded onto the plane. You will collect your dog the same location (or nearby) as special luggage.
The amount of time it takes from the plane landing until you have you dog again can differ. It depends on the size of the airport (how far the gate is from the collection point) and how busy the airport is. In my experience it is usually somewhere between 15-30 minutes, but I have waited one time for 40 minutes.
When travelling abroad your dog should remain in the crate until you have cleared customs. Go on red zone to show the dogs passport (and possibly scan the chip). In my experience customs sometimes tell me I dont need to go on red.Even though this is normally the rule.
Every dog reacts differently to new and unknown situations. Think of how your dog reacts to these kinds of situations (new and unknown). Does your dog get scared easily and has problems shaking it of after? You know your dog the best and only you can asses if your will handle this experience well. If you think it will be fine, it probably will. You can always do a short flight first before a long one if possible.
All the airlines I have travelled with writes they have the same temperature in the cargo where the dogs are, as in the cabin where you are sitting. I have a warm bedding with a soft bedding underneath inside the crate. This allows my dog to easily push away the warm bedding incase they get too hot, but also be comfortable on the soft bedding.
The loading of dogs (and other luggage) usually happens right before or during boarding. It is the same with your dogs as your other luggage. The airline wants to make sure you are onboard before the luggage is loaded.
This depends on the airline. For Norwegian a dog in the cabin cost 550-750 NOK and a dog in cargo 1500 – 1800 NOK.