I recently moved to another country and so did my furry friend (a 3yr old golden retriever) with me.
When I first started thinking about moving my pet along with me, I was quite concerned about how all this will work out.
I also considered travelling by sea on a cruise as I wanted my pet to be with me while travelling and not in the cargo. But soon I found out I had only one option “air travel”.
So I started off with my preparations. Started with finding out the right size kennel/crate for my dog, then training my dog for a kennel, booking the flight for myself and my dog, checking in on the day of the flight, the transit time and finally landing at the destination.
All these phases had their own challenges, problems, required a whole lot of effort but when I finally got my pet out of the kennel at the destination in all good health I realized it was worth the effort.
I travelled in the second week of May, 2019 from Delhi to Toronto. The overall experience could be described as a lot of work and filled with moments of anxiety but it all ended up into something wonderful.
So let’s start from the beginning………
Before the travel day….
- Stop giving your dog solid food at least 24 hours before flight time.
- Give plenty of water, especially 5-6 hrs before reaching the airport.
- Walk your pet before leaving for the airport.
- Walk your pet before entering the airport.
If your pet does not have to poop or pee during the flight or the whole trip he will be calm. So this is worth the effort.
Booking ticket for the flight
A pet either travels in cargo without you or as excess baggage with you. The cargo option is almost 3 times more expensive than paying extra for your pet’s travel as excess baggage.
If you are used to spending hours looking for bargains on the flight tickets, well you need to drop this idea if you are travelling with your pet. You will have to stick to certain airlines, which stop at certain transit locations and you need to book directly from them to avoid any trouble. My travel agent refused to book for me as he said he has never booked it earlier and it is a lot of extra work.
The options you have for airlines will depend on your country of origin and country of destination. In my case, I was travelling to Canada from India. I had options like Air Canada, British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM ……. I heard from a few people that Lufthansa and KLM are very good with pets, though my experience was good with KLM I have nothing to compare it with.
How to book air ticket when travelling with a pet
- Get a general idea of fares, timing and airlines by searching for flights on google
- Have the following information ready before you call airline helpline
- Dog’s bread/age/weight etc
- Dimensions of the kennel/crate
- Weight of the kennel/crate
- Call the airline helpline directly tell them a date or range of dates when you want to travel, do mention you plan to travel with a pet as excess baggage.
- They will confirm if on the desired date they can book you a ticket with your pet.
- Once confirmed they will send you a confirmation email with a link to pay online.
- Once booked you will get a ticket copy in an email, print it.
- Check back on phone 48 hrs before your date of the flight for your pet booking. Airlines mess up things sometimes so be 100% sure.
How much does it cost….. ?
approx. Rs 67k for my ticket + approx. Rs 12k for the dog as excess baggage + Rs 14k for pet hotel at Amsterdam
(48 inch Kennel costed me Rs30k)
so a total Rs 26k for flight and Rs 30k for the kennel.
That was like Rs 56k extra.
Approx USD 820 as on May, 2019.
Every airline has its own set of rules and you will have to follow them if you plan to travel with them. The rules include things like the total weight of dog + kennel, dimensions of kennel etc. Here is what KLM had for me. KLM pet travel conditions.
Do’s & Dont’s while booking ticket
- If travelling in summers book a flight late in the night (2am-3am) as it will less hot for your pet while being loaded.
- Choose the transit location and time carefully. If the transit is longer than 2.5 hrs the pet is taken to an animal facility or hold area, where they are taken out of kennel/crate, fed and given water. Amsterdam, Heathrow and Frankfurt airports have dedicated animal hold areas where they keep dogs. If you plan to take a longer transit like I did, to give your dog some relaxing time it will cost you approx USD200 extra.
- Consider travel time of each flight and transit. My dog did well in all three i.e. the first flight which was an 8 hr flight but got extended by 2hrs so 10hrs, 7 hr stay at Amsterdam and 8.5hr in the last flight.
I had booked KLM, the overall experience was good but there is one bit I found very unprofessional/unethical on KLM’s part.
Before booking, I checked with Lufthansa and KLM for tickets. Lufthansa was costing me at least Rs 7000 cheaper but I went with KLM as their customer representative assured me that I will get to meet my dog at Amsterdam at the pet hotel and I do not need any VISA for it. I called them twice to confirm this before booking. But when I landed at Amsterdam I was told I can’t. I wrote to KLM later when I reached my destination, they offered me $25 coupon as a goodwill gesture which I refused. They tricked me into booking their ticket which was at least $100 costlier and then they offer $25 coupon, that $75 profit straight with one lie…..hahahaha. Never mind we both made it to Canada safely and everything else was great with the airline.
Check-In on the day of travel
I reached about 3.5 hrs in advance.
Just before you enter the airport you will need to take your pet for a walk. The closest place at Delhi airport for a pet pee time (pet green area Delhi airport- unofficial) is near the parking lot. Take the road going right just before you enter parking. This road leads to the airport exit road on the other side. Stop anywhere on this road and there is a lot of green bushy area on the right. Once your pet is done, drive back on this road and get onto the departure ramp.
At the departure, I hired porters (Rs300 per porter official rates) to help me with kennel and luggage as I wanted to keep my hands and head free. Lemon’s crate was quite huge, it was a 48 inch extra large kennel. I barely managed to load it unassembled into my Pajero with the hind car seats folded. At the Delhi airport I got down at the last gate of departure (Gate 9 I think) as there is less traffic towards the end and the last gate has a guest area where you can enter and assemble the kennel in AC calmly.
- Reach airport atleast 3 hours in advance. If you have to assemble your kennel at the airport make it 3.5 hrs. If you plan to give your pet a small walk just before you enter the airport add another 20-30 mins.
- The last gate of departure has a guest lounge area, you can assemble your dog’s kennel here. You can enter Airport from inside the guest area, its not allowed but if you request the guard because you are carrying a pet they will allow.
at the Airline counter…..
Once at the airline counter let them know you are travelling with the pet. They will ask for pet documents, your ticket and passport. They will need a copy of pet documents, if you are carrying them it may save some time or else the airline will get a copy for you.
KLM had provided me with a list for documents I had them all but I forgot the copies, which they arranged for me. The staff was very helpful and prompt. All this time the porters were taking care of my luggage and dog kennel. Once all formalities were done the KLM staff put some markers and stickers on the crate and we were good to go.
The lady from KLM was very helpful she told me that they will be checking in the dog kennel as late as possible so that the dog does not have to be in the hot dispatching area for long. I had at least 30-40 mins here to calm down my dog. I walked him around inside the airport but note there is no pet relief area or green area inside the airport. About 1.5hr before the take off time I went back to the KLM counter, loaded Lemon inside the crate, gave him 2-3 sips of water, the staff took kennel to a scanning center. They scanned the kennel, took my signatures and took the kennel inside for loading. It was about 1 hr before take-off and was able to get my security done and reached the gates well in time.
Boarding the plane…..
When I was boarding the flight I asked an air hostess if they can confirm if my pet is on board. She was kind enough to check with the Captain, who walked down to me and told me that he is aware, he has adjusted the temperature and my dog is doing good. This was quite a relief for me. The flight took-off soon, I was really worried and anxious but there was nothing I could do, so I had two shots of whisky and slept through the night.
- Do check-up with the staff while boarding about your pet’s status
Getting off at the Transit…..
While getting off I again checked with the staff and they walked me to the Captain who assured me all is good. When I asked the Captain where can I meet my dog he said that won’t be possible (the customer support had told me I will be able to meet my dog) but the Captain advised me that if I stay back in the corridor area for a while I can see my dog being unloaded and I will be able to see him from a distance. While I was peeping/searching where to look the Captain again stopped by my side and pointed me to the side of the plane I need to watch. It was really nice of him, he was very helpful and kind.
So I waited for around 15-20 mins. The staff first unloaded all the luggage in the back of the plane, and then they started unloading everything from the place under the pilot cabin. And then finally I saw my dog’s kennel. He was standing in the kennel, I could see the unloading staff talking/playing with him, I could see that he was perfectly fine. I stood there for about 10 mins till they took him away on a cart.
The dog kennel was secured very well.
At Amsterdam, I went to the KLM counter to check for my dog’s well being. The lady at the counter called up someone on phone, she was talking in a language I could not understand, she did not ask if I want to talk myself and when she hung up she said the dog is doing fine. I was still not satisfied so I searched for the KLM pet hotel phone online and called them up. They could speak English, asked for my flight no., my name, my pet’s name, breed and then they told me all is good he is doing well, had some water and food, they also said they will be walking him around and cleaning his crate (which they did as when I received him at Toronto my dog’s crate looked cleaned up and had some newspapers in and the old absorbing sheets I had put were gone).
While boarding also I called the pet hotel and they informed me that my dog was all good, has left the facility and will be onboard.
While boarding back I again checked with the Airhostess, this time she did not have a clue but she checked with the Captain and updated me.
Final Destination….Custom check……
When I landed at Toronto airport I first got through my security check. I did mention I am travelling with my dog and I have some dog food in my laptop bag (there were posters around there asking not to carry dog food without declaring) but they did not bother much.
I hired a porter here too (they charge CAD20 + tip) as I knew I can’t manage my luggage and kennel alone. Porter helped me pick my luggage up, then he took me to the counter from where extra-large luggage or dog kennels are brought in. I waited here for about 5-10 mins for my dog, the kennel came in and was handed over to me without asking anything, no documents nothing. The porter helped me put the kennel on his trolley and we started moving towards the customs counter. All this while my dog (Lemon) was barking like crazy and the whole airport was wondering what the hell just came in. I tried a lot but he just did not stop barking, I even gave him a few dog treats which I was carrying in my laptop bag but it did not help. I think the customs guys were wondering if this is my dog or am I smuggling him into the country….ahahahahha.
We had about 7-8 people ahead of us in the customs queue waited for about 10 mins before the customs staff got annoyed of barking and pulled us out of line.
They checked the vaccination records, the NOC, asked me a few questions about my pet and asked me to pay CAD30 + taxes (13%) as inspection fee. And we were good go.
Note: Canada does not require microchip but they did ask if my dog has it. Also if you land without vaccination record they will vaccinate the pet, charge about extra CAD50 + tax and this will take extra time.
For more details on what to expect when you land in Canada with your pet.
All this while my dog was inside the crate. Some other people with smaller dogs had got their dogs out of crate right after they received them. But my porter insisted I should keep my dog inside. Once we were out of security area I met my family, who eagerly waiting outside (not for me but for Lemon), that is when we got him out of the kennel. The moment Lemon was out he stopped barking, met everyone like crazy. My dog was super thirsty had lots of water and in 5 mins he was like normal just a bit anxious like he is when at a new place.
We walked to the parking, loaded Lemon into one car, his kennel into another and we were on way to my sister’s home.
The whole story in short…..
It was a tough job, but only because of the lack of information available on how to do it. I could not find one person before my travel who could give me first-hand advice. And that is why I made this website, published all these blogs and shared all this information, so the pet lovers have better access to real experiences and real information.
You do not have to pay extra to these “pet travel agents” unless you have lots of money or you want someone else to do your hard work.
They charge as high as Rs15000 for a NOC which is in fact free.
The process to move your pet by air is simple and secure. And will cost you max 50% more than your own ticket. And I can tell you that it is worth every penny.
Tags: dog on flight dog travel experience pet air travel travelling with dog on plane