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A guide to flying with pets in Australia and overseas

Whether you’re planning a domestic escape or an international getaway, these are the pet-friendly airlines and private charters you need to know about.

Whether furred, feathered or scaled, Australians treat their pets as family members. It’s a cultural change that’s seen many a canine and kitty spoilt rotten with toys, treats and the best accessories money can buy – and it’s been adopted across the travel and hospitality sectors. Restaurants and cafes now welcome four-legged clientele with dedicated menus, complimentary water bowls and puppuccinos, while some hotels and holiday parks offer pet-friendly accommodations.

Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world. The RSPCA reported 28.7 million pets in Australia in 2022, and a study by accommodation website Stayz found that of dog owners alone, two million households planned to go on holiday with their pooches that year. Despite the rising popularity of companion animals in the public sphere, there’s only one pet-friendly airline in Australia that allows dogs and cats in-cabin – although the option won’t be available until 2025.

a black dog sitting on an orange suitcase
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Pet-friendly airlines in Australia and New Zealand

Virgin Australia has announced plans to become the first in-cabin pet carrier in Australia, facilitating the transportation of small cats and dogs in under-seat arrangements onboard specific domestic routes in selected rows from 2025. In the interim, Virgin Australia relegates its tiniest passengers to the utilitarian surrounds of the cargo hold. Qantas adopts a similar tactic, shipping animals exclusively under its freight arm. Those wishing to embark on an international holiday or relocation with their beloved pet in tow will require the services of a professional pet travel agency, such as JetPets. Air New Zealand is a pet-friendly airline and allows cats, dogs and small caged birds to travel on all domestic flights as checked-in baggage.

a cat looking out an aeroplane window
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Pet-friendly airlines in the United Kingdom

Operating under similar restrictions to Australia, animals are prohibited from flying in-cabin on aircraft operated by UK-based airlines. While flagship carrier British Airways will transport dogs and cats in the cargo hold as freight, budget airlines such as EasyJet and RyanAir only allow assistance dogs. However, there is a workaround for travellers on outbound international flights operated by KLM, Lufthansa and TUI Fly, all of which allow pets to travel in-cabin on selected routes departing Great Britain. Alternatively, those of affluent means can opt for the luxury services of Bark Air.

Catering to exclusive clientele and their precious pets, Bark Air is a new UK-based pet-friendly airline that promises a ‘white paw’ experience. Flying routes between New York and Los Angeles, and New York and London (with more coming soon), Bark Air will fly your dog on a Gulfstream 550 private jet sans crate, with complimentary dog-friendly car service upon arrival. The ticket price entitles each dog to bring one human of their choice.

a dog and child on a private jet
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Pet-friendly airlines in Asia

Forbidding all but assistance animals, Asian airlines rarely allow pets in-cabin. However, a few facilitate under-seat carriage on select domestic and international routes: Air India, Asiana Airlines, El Al Airlines, Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Royal Jordanian, T’way Air (in-cabin only), and Jin Air. Travelling in the cargo hold or as checked baggage is an option on select routes for pets flying with Vietnam Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air China and Cathay Pacific via Cathay Live Animal Solution by Cathay Cargo.

Meanwhile, All Nippon Airways and Etihad have the most unique pet travel policies in Asia. The former will carry turtles, tortoises, small fish and insects in-cabin, but banish all other critters to the cargo hold. The latter allows dogs and cats to fly in economy and business on select routes, with special priority given to falcons which can travel in economy, business and first class, with one falcon per person, or two falcons per additional seat.

a dog being carried at the airport
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Pet-friendly airlines in Africa

Flights within Africa operated by South African Airways, Kenya Airways and Airlink allow dogs and cats to travel in the cargo hold, while Lift offers dog-friendly flights with small breeds below 8kg allowed in-cabin. Ethiopian Airlines operates under a hybrid policy, with small breeds of cats and dogs allowed in-cabin, while larger breeds must travel in the cargo hold.

Pet travel agencies and private charters Australia

Aristocats and gentledogs can fly in the luxury surrounds of a private charter aircraft and spend the flight reclining on leather seats with a dedicated chaperone and complimentary treats. Alternatively, opt for a pet travel agency that organises airport transfers, flights and accommodation for your animals.

  • Skye Pet Travel is a pet-friendly private charter jet service flying pets in and out of Australia
  • FalconAir can be engaged for private pet charters and will provide advice on international documentation requirements
  • Navair provides pet-friendly private jets for charter with personalised service for cats, dogs, birds and reptiles
  • K9 Jets is a pet-friendly pay-per-seat private jet service based in the US that flys to Melbourne from September 2024
  • Adagold Aviation arrange pet flights within Australia and to international destinations
  • Royal Paws Pet Transport will move your pet interstate in a dedicated vehicle
  • JetPets arranges door-to-door domestic and international pet travel
  • AeroPets Animal Transport facilitate domestic and international transport
  • Dogtainers facilitate all types of animal transports, from domestic pets to zoo animals
a cat in a white and grey carrier
© Adobe Stock

Things you need to know before flying with pets

  • All animals should visit their regular vet before boarding a domestic or international flight for a general health check and to obtain any recommended medication and/or carriage suggestions from their healthcare provider.
  • Regardless of carriage policy, all pet-friendly airlines have different height, weight and species restrictions on animals and their carriers. It’s essential to confirm the details with your carrier before booking a pet-friendly flight.
  • Many in-cabin options require animal carriers to fit beneath the seat in front of you, while checked-in and cargo-hold animal transportation have different requirements.
  • Pet owners should expect to pay additional fees for the carriage of their animals on board any flights, ranging from three to four-figure fees.
  • Whether travelling interstate and internationally, pet passports, documentation, vaccination, quarantine and other related requirements are the responsibility of the owner to arrange.
  • Service dogs are usually exempt from domestic pet carriage rules, though each airline has slightly different policies regarding assistance and support animals.

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