- Discover the ins and outs of plane travel for your pets.
- Pets cannot fly on your frequent flyer points.
- Prepare to be amazed at some of the weird pets people take on planes.
You’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to move overseas or take that extended holiday you’ve been talking about for years. But what are you going to do with your precious pet? As a loved member of the family, leaving them behind is not an option. They go where you go. You’re just not sure how.
Australians have a real penchant for animals, with one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. According to Animal Medicine Australia, 62% of the population own 24 million pets. Considering the population of Australia is just over 24 million, that’s a lot of pets.
It doesn’t, however, mean every household has a pet. There may be more than one dog, cat, fish, reptile or small mammal per home. This means that moving abroad or taking extended trips with your pets in tow can seem like a daunting prospect.
Thankfully, travel companies are aware pet owners are reticent to leave their fur babies behind and provide guidelines to make booking transport easy. Of course, it’s an added cost to what could be a potentially expensive trip, but there are ways to keep costs in check and bag a few air miles into the bargain.
Can I take my pet on the plane?
If you’re flying within Australia and out of Australia, only service dogs are allowed in the plane cabin, and all other pets have to go in the hold.
Each airline has its own policies for pet travel so make sure you check with the carrier you’re flying with, and take time to read the fine print. Most airlines have a list of breeds you are and are not allowed to transport. For example, snub-nosed breeds of dogs and cats which may be prone to breathing difficulties are banned.
If you’re flying internationally, the airlines recommend pet travel is booked through an IPATA-approved pet shipping company.
Can I use points to pay for my pet to travel?
Airlines may be welcoming of having your pet on the plane, but unfortunately their good will doesn’t extend to being able to book pet travel using points. Generally, pet bookings have to be made separately and usually before you book your own trip.
Depending on which airline you’re travelling with, seek out their pet booking page on their website and follow their recommendations for booking.
Fees for pet travel vary depending on the size of the animal, what breed it is and whether you need a cage. A list of fees can be found on airlines’ websites.
Maximising points return on your credit card
Even though you can’t pay for your pet to travel using points, there’s no reason why you can’t use your credit card to accumulate more points for other trips.
In Australia, most frequent flyer credit cards are affiliated with Qantas or Virgin. Which card you opt for depends on how much you think you’ll travel with either carrier, and of course what deal is available at the time of signing up for your card.
The Qantas Premier Platinum Credit Card is currently offering 120,000 bonus Qantas Frequent Flyer points when you meet the spend criteria, which is enough for a return ticket from Australia to Europe. And the American Express Velocity Platinum Credit Card is offering 100,00 bonus Virgin Australia Velocity points once you fulfil the spend criteria, along with a complimentary domestic flight and entry into the Virgin lounges.
Alternative modes of pet transport
Unless you’re planning to drive around Australia, the main mode of pet transportation in and out of Australia is flying/shipping. However, long quarantine periods can apply.
There are a few companies that can arrange shipping for your pet, like JetPets, who can arrange door-to-door transportation.
If you’re not sure whether your pet would cope with flying, check out the RSPCA’s website to see the things you need to consider before booking your pet a spot on the plane.And remember, animals lose their health status once they leave Australia. Pets can only return from approved countries, which may affect the decision on whether to take your pet with you.
The weirdest pets allowed on planes
While Australia and Europe don’t generally allow pets in the cabin (apart from service animals), the United States has much more relaxed laws for travelling with your furry friends. In fact, most US airlines recommend taking your pet in the cabin with you rather than subjecting them to travelling in the hold.
And unlike many other airlines, they are welcoming of other animals as well as cats and dogs. At least they were, until more and more people were passing off the strangest pets as service animals to get their pet on the plane.
Here are a few eye-opening stories about travelling with pets.
In January 2018, it was reported that United Airlines turned away a woman with an emotional support peacock. Despite seen wrangling the bird into departures, the woman tried to convince authorities she really needed her pet with her.
Emirates airlines only allow cats and dogs to travel if they’re kept in the hold, but it’s completely fine to have a falcon in the cabin if travelling between certain airports in Dubai and Pakistan. Don’t know about you . . . but sitting next to a falcon on a plane is not appealing.
A Saudi prince once bought 80 plane tickets for his 80 falcons. The falcon is the United Arab Emirates’ national bird, and falconry is a pursuit of the rich elite in the region.
A pig was removed from a US Airways flight in 2014 after it became disruptive on the flight.
Not only was an emotional support turkey allowed on a Delta Airlines flights in January 2016, it also was given VIP treatment and wheeled through the airport on a wheelchair on arrival at the destination.
A blind lady from Jacksonville, Florida, started using a miniature horse as a guide dog after two previous guide dogs died of old age. She was allowed to take the horse in the cabin.
Another traveller took his baby kangaroo service animal on the plane.
Regulations for travelling with pets are constantly changing so it’s best to contact the airline you’re travelling with to find out their specific policies.
And be mindful that not all pets enjoy travelling, so if you’re not making a permanent move overseas it may be better for the pet to be left with a friend or at boarding kennels. They just might prefer that over the trauma of travelling anywhere at all.