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How to fly with a dog between the UK and Europe

By June 3, 2016March 16th, 201931 Comments

20150525_025522 My husband and dog at Heathrow terminal before leaving

When I moved to the UK I thought that flying with my dog would have been the last option: he is a medium/big sized dog and I was not a fan of the idea of having him travelling in a plane’s cargo hold. Last year, though, we had planned a month in Italy and hiring a car in the UK for such a long time would have been very unconvenient, so we decided to try the plane-solution.

In this post I will provide you with all the relevant information for getting a plane to another European country with your dog and share my personal experience.

Taking your dog to Europe by plane

Dog at Heathrow airport before embarking

Unless you are willing to spend thousands of pounds to fly with your big dog on a private outbound charter, first of all you will need to check with the aircarrier you wish to travel with if they accept pets and what are the conditions, including whether they would directly accept your dog or they would require you to use an animal shipper, which would take care of handling your four-legged friend (this latter option can be pretty costly).

In fact, some airlines do not accept pets at all (as, for examples, low cost companies such as Ryanair, EasyJet, etc.), others might only accept small pets of a maximum weight, taken in a carriage bag into the cabin, others would also allow big dogs to be placed in a crate in the hold. In addition, payable fees may vary, as well as the conditions for transport (max n. of dogs per flight, max. dimensions of the crate, max. weight of the dog, prior booking, routes on which admitted, need for an animal shipper, etc.). Different conditions apply to guide dogs, which are generally welcome on board and travel for free.

Pet Travel Scheme

You can find the pet travel scheme rules which need to be complied with when travelling with a dog to or from the UK in my previous blogpost. These include microchipping, European Pet Passport, rabies vaccination and, for inbound travels, a tapeworm treatment.

Health certificate

On top of the general pet travel scheme rules, you will be asked by the airline to produce a pet health certificate, issued by a vet, stating that the dog is healthy and fit to fly.


If your dog needs to travel in the plane’s cargo hold, in most cases you will need to find a crate which complies with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Live Animals Regulations (LAR), which detail the container requirements for dogs and cats (the link is to the latest version available at the moment, i.e., January 2016).

Currently IATA represents 260 airlines global wide and, although it is not a regulatory authority, its Live Animals Regulations are widely adopted as the minimum standard requirements for air transportation of animals (as an example, in the UK they are indicated by DEFRA in this regard) or have been taken as a model for other legal instruments. I spoke with a IATA’s representative, who told me that LAR “were accepted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as guidelines in respect of transportation of animals by air [and] used by  the Council of Europe as a basis for its code of conduct for the international transport  of farm animals [see here]. The European Union has adopted the IATA Live Animals Regulations as the minimum standard for transporting animals in containers, pens and stalls [those are mentioned in Regulation 1/2005]. As an increasing number of countries have adopted or accepted these Regulations as a part of their national legislation, shippers are warned that shipping live animals in violation of the Regulations may constitute a breach of the applicable law and may be subject to legal penalties.”

Aside legal disquisitions, it is essential for anybody wishing to embark their dog to be aware of dimensions, material and shape requirements under IATA LAR before purchasing a crate, as well as to check the chosen airline requirements, because some may apply more stringent rules to containers.

A)     Dimensions of the pet container

pet-container-dimensions_IATA2016Under IATA rules, the required internal container dimensions are as showed in the picture above. The letters correspond to the following:

“A = length of animal from tip of nose to base/root of tail.
B = height from ground to elbow joint. A+1⁄2 B = length of container.
C = width across shoulders or widest point (whichever is the greater). Cx2 = width of container.
D = height of animal in natural standing position from top of the head or the ear tip to the floor (whichever is higher) / height of the container (top flat or arched)
Minimum internal container dimensions:
A + ½ B = Length  C x 2 + Width  D = Height
Snub nosed breeds require 10% larger”

B)     Material and shape of the pet container

IATA also provides for the minimum characteristics of the container. Those are quite detailed, so I suggest you directly refer to the LAR. In general, containers must be solid and not have wheels; the materials can vary, but containers made entirely of welded or wire mesh are not suitable for air transport and wooden containers shall met quite specific requisits. In addition, the guidance specifies the ventilation requirements for the containers.

Water and food containers. A water container should be placed in the container and it should be possible to fill it from the outside, while a food container can be placed inside if sealed or attached. It is mandatory to attach a lable indicating that a live animal is being transported.

Sedation. Animal sedation is not recommended by IATA and totally banned by some airlines, which warn about the risk of side effects that can happen while flying, also due to the pressure.

Futher guidance on the transport of certain breeds or in certain conditions such as pregnancy is contained in IATA’s LAR. A summary of the applicable rules, including for the case you are carrying more than one animal, is available on IATA’s webpage.

Inbound flight with a dog: approved routes

In addition, if you are not just planning to fly out of the UK, but also wish to fly inbound, you need to find an aircarrier listed in the approved air routes and fly on the correct airport.

Our experience flying our dog from the UK to Italy

Large dog in a crate awaiting boarding at the airport

Last summer I and my husband decided that he would have taken our dog by plane to Italy, where we were supposed to go on holiday.

I started checking flights and pet transport conditions and, after receiving some crazy quotes (£981 from a company and £1,118  from another to take the dog to Venice with British Airways using an animal shipper), I discovered that Alitalia was actually very covenient.

For travelling to Italy they currently charge €20 for a dog in the cabin up to 10kg, €50 for a dog in the hold between 8 and 32kg inclusive of crate and food and €50 plus €5 per kg for a dog in the hold between 32-74kg inclusive of crate and food, a bit more for other destinations (their pet travel conditions and prices are available here).

I first checked with their contact center whether the dog could have flew from London Heathrow to Venice and I was told that it was not allowed on that particular route, but I could have instead used the London Heathrow – Milan Linate flight. So I booked my husband’s flight and a place in the hold for our dog (over the phone), which costed us less than €80 on top of my husband’s ticket.

Getting the right dog crate for the flight

I checked with them the characteristics of allowed crates. They emailed me a document, stating that they only accepted crates which shell was made of rigid plastic or fiberglass, and the lateral air scoop covered with metal bars rather than plastic ones. It was not so easy to find a crate complying with the metal bars air ventilation requirement, but in the end I had this sorted (this is a compliant crate).

Checking in at Heathrow Airport with a dog

The flight was taking off at 7.25am from London Heathrow and I accompanied my husband to the airport. We got there very early, because they had advised us to be at the airport well before time for the check-in and at least 90 minutes ealier.

Right after I took the first picture (see above in the post) we were told that dogs are not allowed out of a crate at Heathrow’s airport, so our furry friend had to be put in the cage straight away. At the check-in the hostess called for an attendant to come and escort our dog and my husband at the special control checks, but it took almost 1 hour before somebody came. We were given a trolley where to place the crate.


When the attendant came, he escorted my husband and our dog to a separate control checks area, where he was asked some questions and the dog was taken out from the crate, so that some officers could inspect both the crate and the dog. After the controls, the dog was put back in the crate and taken away by the attendant, while my husband got to the gates.

Being worried about comfort and temperature in the hold, I had bought a wool blanket to keep him warm. On his side, my husband was worried too, so, once on board, he talked to the pilot, to confirm he was aware that a dog would have been travelling in the hold and checked the temperature in the hold: the pilot was super kind and provided him with all the information.

Landing in Milan

All good it seemed, until the arrival in Milan Linate.

My husband waited for an attendant to carry our dog’s crate in the luggage area and saw an awful scene. The crate had not been put on a trolley, but was pushed by the attendant with kicks and hand pushes, with our dog terrified in the crate. We were disturbed by this shockingly unprofessional handling.

In addition, my husband soon discovered that our dog had vomited and pooed in the crate for the fear, and, apart from regretting not having given him some tranquillizer (because this was forbidden by the airline and we were advised that could have dangerous side effects during the flight), we agreed that this was the first and last time we took him on a plane.

©2016 The Londog. All rights reserved.


  • Valrie says:

    I’m in the same situation ………..and i’ve got a Shi Tzu!!!!!! 6Kg…..
    I haven’t founded any airline which allowed my to fly out an specially in from U.K.
    with my dog into the travelling crate into the passenger cabin………..
    I’m giving up.
    I’ll travel by car down to Dover cross the border down to Calais………
    Take the train to Paris………..
    Any suggestion?
    I love your blog. Well done.

    • The Londog says:

      Hi Valerie,
      Thank you very much for your comment.
      This sounds like a good plan if you have a car to reach Calais. Otherwise you can go to Folkestone by train, then take a pet taxi for the Eurotunnel and in Calais Frethun take the TGV for Paris. There is another blog post in the travel section of the blog where you can find all the information and also a review of our trip.
      Good luck with your trip!
      Love that you enjoy the blog.
      Best wishes,

  • Razvan says:

    Hi ia have a puppy pug 6 month old and ami have somne dificulties with him to return back to england.The airlines tell me that they will take me my dog but i can not return with him.Any suggestion please ?

    • The Londog says:

      Hi, you can take dogs only on approved routes and it is correct that only certain airlines and routes are approved. You can take train + pet taxi or another approved route. If you have a look at the other posts in the Travel category, you will find all information and reviews.
      Best wishes

    • Emma says:

      Hi Razvan!
      If he’s under 8kg you can fly in cabin with him with vueling up to Amsterdam then take an overnight ship from Rotterdam to England! That’s what I did!
      Good luck!

  • CJ says:

    Thanks for this. I was sceptical about putting my dog in the hold, but this has clinched it! I’ll drive or take him via trains. I want to be able to monitor his wellbeing, not just leave it to chance that he’s okay and well looked after.

  • Jules says:

    Thank you for taking the trouble to share your experience. We would dearly love to take our dog on holidays in Europe ( we’re in the UK) , but your experience has confirmed my fears about flying in the hold, and I definitely wouldn’t risk it unless I could take him in the cabin. Unfortunately he’s 45 kilos, so not much chance of that. I’ll be investigating the trains & boats options.
    I feel they are missing a market here, lots of us would love to travel short haul with the dogs .

    Thanks once again ?

    • The Londog says:

      Hi Jules,
      Many thanks for your comment. Indeed, trains and ferries are definitely a better option… You can find our experience with trains in the other posts in the travel section of the blog, as well as info about travelling via other routes. I hope that helps and good luck with your journey planning!
      I’d love to hear how it goes.
      Best wishes,

  • Coco says:

    I use BlaBlaCar ride share service (Uber with regular people) to get to Europe. I’ve used twice to goto Paris but it’s so hot I’m not up for a long car/train ride with a Frenchie. Definitely couldn’t put my dog in the hold but now considering Amsterdam after reading this. Thanks.

  • Vito says:

    Hi everyone,

    So am I right to say that it is possible to travel with a small dog (if permitted by the airline) in cabin on a plane from the UK to a European country?

    Thank you all for your help!

    • The Londog says:

      Hi Vito, yes, if the airline allows it and within their set limits. On the other hand, for flights from Europe to the UK you need to refer to the airlines on the approved route list (and check on which routes they allow dogs). Best wishes, Cristina

    • Yes, if dog and carrier is 6kg you can take them into cabin. Im flying next month with BlueAir from Liverpool to Alicante. I think it was about £20-£25 . You can book on line or call them as I did and they were very helpful.
      Unfortunately you cannot return the same way.
      Hope this information helps you.

      • Victoria Acres says:

        Can I ask how you returned with him? It’s just my family are in Alicante and would love to take my dog every time I visit

        Victoria x

  • Olivia says:

    So, when they took him into the controls/check area, did they have you take the dog out or did they? Also, are you allowed to cable tie the door after the dog gets back in the crate after inspection?

    • The Londog says:

      Hi Olivia,
      I think my husband took the dog out of the crate himself, but let me double check with him and confirm. They were very thorough in the check.
      I am not sure about the answer to the second question.

  • Dana says:

    I am travelling with my dog in-cabin with MEA, and started to worry after reading the check in part in Heathrow airport! I am mostly worried about the dimensions of the bag if they will be measured ? Also, the airlines have accepted by carrier for their plane but it doesnt follow IATA rules, will the airport reject the bag?

  • Monica says:

    Do you have any advice how to travel with a dog from Europe to the UK?

    • The Londog says:

      Hi Monica, yes we have tested car/van, plane and train alternatives. You can find the different options and our reviews in the Travel section of the blog, accessible from the menu button if you are browsing on mobile or in the top bar from “Topics” if on desktop. I hope this is of help and please feel
      free to reach out if you need further help.
      Best wishes,

  • Orlagh says:

    This has been such a helpful article! I usually travel via car/ ferry from England home to Ireland. Was considering putting my pooch in the hold and flying home this time for Xmas. Such a pity that this happened, but happy that you shared the info so others can avoid same happening to other dogs.


    • The Londog says:

      Hi Orlagh, thank you for your note and that this is helpful. Since then I met other people who have travelled with their dogs in the cargo and were fine with that, but yeah, this was our experience..
      Hope you have some awesome travels with your dog!
      Best wishes, Cristina

  • Heather says:

    Thank you for your blog. It confirmed my fears and that’s why I would never allow my dog to travel solo in a cage in the hold.

    I travel back and for to Gran Canaria, and hire a private jet each time – it costs about €20k from London one way, and about €15k from Portugal. But the ferry is really bad and hold transport is torture for the dog. If you have a tiny dog (<6kg) you can go in the cabin with Iberia to Paris, but for a bigger dog, private jet travel is the only option, if you can afford it.

    For mainland Europe, you can go by train or drive – but you can't go on the Eurostar – which I still find shocking, since you can travel in the UK on all other trains. Folkestone Taxis will drive you through the Eurotunnel with your dog. The Eurotunnel is definitely best.

    I have heard of some friends using Bla Bla cars for lift sharing with their dogs. But I haven't tried it myself.

    I am going with my dog to Malta, and we are using Folkestone taxis, then train, then ferry from Sicily to Malta.

    I don't know why (i) cage transport for dogs is so bad and (ii) the Eurostar still won't take dogs.

    • The Londog says:

      Hi Heather, thank you for sharing your experience. I hear you, Eurostar not allowing dogs is really annoying. It would make everything so much easier and stress-free There has been campaigns calling for change before, but unfortunately nothing changed..
      Best wishes, Cristina

  • Ana says:

    Wonderful and very complete blog, thank you so much!

    May I ask you about the door of the kennel you used?… Alitalia is now asking for a kennel where the door has 6 lock points (one lock point in each corner, plus 2 additional ones in the middle of the vertical sections of the door – meaning it also closes horizontally).

    What was your experience with that? Karlie Transport boxes (the one you recommend) closes only horizontally, did they have different rules when you travelled, or were they not fuzzy about it?
    (Petmate has doors as Alitalia requires, but I’m having trouble finding one of those kennels online in the UK for my german shepherd/husky… so I was wondering if you could use a Karlie kennel instead and put cable ties to tie the door in the middle of the vertical sections).

    Thanks a lot in advance !

    • The Londog says:

      Hi Ana,
      glad it helps. Interesting about the crate requirements… The best thing would be to call Alitalia and speak with them directly.
      I hope this helps.
      Good luck!
      Best wishes

  • Ana says:

    * a typo in my previous comment…. ” Karlie Transport boxes (the one you recommend) closes only VERTICALLY (not horizontally)”

  • Sue says:

    Has anyone from Scotland every taken a flight to Alicante with a dog

  • Giorgia says:

    Hi there,
    We’re trying to get our German Shepherd to Italy as well and have bought a giant sized crate (the 121x82x90 one) which the dog loves and seems huge, so much that it fits both me and the dog together inside but it seems like by iata standards is still too small? I can see that you’ve purchased the same brand as the one I have and was wondering what size did you get and how big your dog is for reference? Because at this point the only way to get a bigger one is to have a custom made one..

    • The Londog says:

      Hi Giorgia, thank you for reaching out. I am afraid I don’t have the crate anymore for measures comparison. I think ours was the largest we could find that was IATA and Alitalia rules compliant. I guess that the sense of the rule is that the dog can move comfortably inside the crate. They didn’t measure the dog at the airport when we flew out, but of course there may be instances where they do it.

  • Vicky says:

    Omg this is horrendous and so upsetting! I’m so sad to hear you had to go through this and I will not ever do this to my dogs with thanks to you!

    I’m so glad I read to the bottom and thank you so much for your honesty.

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