How To Fly Your Pets Internationally

Most people are familiar with the concept of flying a pet in the cargo hold of a commercial airliner. What many don't know, is that you can fly your cat (or dog, for that matter) in the cabin with you, as long as it meets the weight requirements provided by the airline. Not all airlines allow this, but there are plenty that do.

(As an aside, and contrary to popular belief, cargo holds are climate controlled, sound proofed, pressurized and often contain crew bunks - they are perfectly comfortable for pets and people, so if your pet has to travel in cargo, don't sweat it.) For today's example, I'm going to use Northwest's rules and regulations, because I have experience with them. Bear in mind, however, that all airlines partner with foreign airlines. This means that while you might be booking a Northwest flight from Dulles to Amsterdam - you might actually be flying on a KLM plane. Why does this matter? Because the two companies have different weight restrictions, Northwest allowing slightly larger pets in the cabin.

Let's take a look at some of the rules for flying in cabin.

What are the weight requirements for NWA?

Your pet and carrier combined cannot weigh more than 15 pounds. If you will be flying on a KLM plane, this maximum is reduced, so be sure to contact them directly and ask.

How do I arrange tickets?

You call their customer service line and tell them you're flying on a certain date and you want to buy a ticket for your pet. Because cat allergies are somewhat common, no more than 2 cats are permitted in the cabin at one time, so it's important you be sure to reserve their place in time.

The following are NWA's contact numbers:

  • 1-800-225-2525 For advance reservations when traveling with your pet domestically.

  • 1-800-447-4747. For international information

  • 1-800-328-2298 For Deaf/Hard of Hearing TTY

  • 1-800-NWCARGO (1-800-692-2746) When your pet is traveling unaccompanied.

  • 1-888-NWA-4PET (692-4738) For pet travel requirements/information.

How much does it cost?

One ticket costs $80.

What kind of carrier do you need?

You'll need a soft (but sturdy) carrier that you can fit under the seat in front of you. Obviously, the hard crates will not conform to that kind of space, but there are numerous alternatives. Your pet needs to be able to stand up and turn around inside, so don't get anything too small.

You'll also need to have the carrier lined with an absorbent pad, in case your kitty tinkles during the flight. You can buy the appropriate pads from most pet shops, and they are not expensive. It is *not* sufficient to line it with newspaper. You'll need a method to give Garfield water, too, though it's unlikely he'll be interested in drinking during the flight.

Should I sedate my pet?

NO, absolutely not! The American Veterinary Association strongly recommends against this, and for good reason. There is no way to predict what effect high altitudes could have on your animal. Do not risk this.

What documents do I need?

Northwest states they don't require health certificates for household domestic pets - but if you are traveling internationally, you are going to need one before you can clear customs. You will need documentation that states your pet's rabies vaccine is current (it needs to have been administered more than 30 days before you travel, but can't exceed a year's time). You will also need a health certificate issued by a Vet which states your animal is in good health and can travel.

Note: If you are emigrating to the UK, it is now possible to do so with your pet, and without the 6 month quarantine. Don't leave your pet behind, you can take them with you!. More info here:

Have a cat-halter and leash handy.

This isn't a joke. When I went through security at Dulles, I had to take my cat out because they wanted to x-ray the carrier. I had a halter for this kind of thing, and I am very glad I did. I don't even want to think about what could have happened if I didn't. Airports are noisy bustling places - cats are not going to enjoy leaving their cocoon so some Homeland Security Thug can see if you're trying to sneak a pair of nail clippers onboard.

A final note:

Make sure you have some kitty litter handy before you get on the plane. If you have a long flight ahead of you, your cat will be ready to potty by the time you land. It may be difficult to locate litter in a foreign city, especially if you land late at night. Have a safe flight!

xx Isabella

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Comments 16 comments

connie 5 years ago

Does anyone have suggestions on how I can get my 25 lbs mini Aussie from LAX to Bangkok next December?

Rabbies 5 years ago

I want to fly my rabbit across the Atlantic. The airline company won't let me fly with him neither in as a carry on or cargo. Does anyone know who I can contact to help me? Please I can't leave him behind

kimball 5 years ago

Can a hamster travel on a plane from costa rica to vermont, usa? What are the charges? what airlines permit this? and what papers do i need if a hamster does not requier vaccines?

ellahall2011 profile image

ellahall2011 5 years ago

I don't know this, but now I know, great hub.

James 5 years ago

Hi guys

I've found this site very informative. I have a massive dilemma. I am contemplating taking a job in California which invokes a move from the uk. I want to bring my dog if I move and can't contemplate putting him in the cargo hold. As such I am looking for an airline that will allow him to travel with me in the cabin. Cost is no issue.

Can anyone recommend an airline?

Massive thanks in advance


Ariadne 6 years ago

The UK doesn't allow pets to fly into other airports than only Heathrow. You can look up the ruls for PETS at the website mentioned above.(or type in PETS) Make sure you follow ALL the rules and requirements or your pet will not be allowed in and has to go into quarantine!! All your hard work for nothing!

We are going to fly our 3 dogs from Curacao to the UK and have started the preparation already!

Pets have to go as cargo on a KLM flight to Amsterdam.

hope this is helpful.

sandra gaudet 6 years ago

I will be flying my 2 small dogs from US to Uk is it better to go through say France or Amsterdam before going on to UK as we would like them in the cabin if possible or a good airline cargo area, also we live in Texas and you can not fly from there in summer would it be better to go up north first.

Marc and Jun 6 years ago

Thank you for the reassuring details regarding the cargo area. We're moving from Oregon to Japan and bringing our five cats with us. It's far and away the most stressful and complicated aspect of the move. You've eased our minds a little.

At least we've manage to get a direct flight and on a newer model (767) plane.

dorne 6 years ago

does anyone know any airlines that will fly my dog from amsterdam airport to manchester airport,uk? KLM apparently only fly dogs in from amsterdam to london and glasgow.I need to get her asap-she has her passport,rabies etc and 6 months have passed-just want her home

Leslie 8 years ago

My daughter is flying from Houston to Amsterdam. Continental says it allows in-cabin pets but that all pets must fly in the hold into Schipol. That's a difference of $400! We couldn't get on Northwest/KLM with is around $100 in the hold. Do you know of the in-cabin rule?

Alyson 9 years ago

I know Jewels has long since moved on, but I do want to point out that every one of her complaints regarding pets in the cabin of an airplane could be extended to other humans as well, particularly children. Not only do children often smell, (especially the very small drooly sort) they also tend to howl and whine, kick the seatbacks, run up and down the aisles, etc. People who have children tend to be desensitized to the smelliness and noisiness of children, but those of us who have abstained often find the little darlings obnoxious. ;) Granted I don't know many people with allergies to children, but have you ever sat next to a very old woman with too much perfume?? It can be quite uncomfortable if you have perfume allergies. The point being, whether we are dealing with pets, or children, or people of any age, we all do have to have a little tolerance and understanding. Unless of course we are rich enough to charter a private flight, in which case we can be as intolerant as we like and no one will be the wiser.

Isabella Snow profile image

Isabella Snow 9 years ago Author

Christine - Thank you!

Cgull - Thanks, too! :)

cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

Thanks Isabella for the hub, I didn't realize all of this requirement, I have saved it as a bookmark, if any of my friends about pets, I know where to refer. Thanks.

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ChristineRitter 9 years ago from Ohio

very informative !

Isabella Snow profile image

Isabella Snow 9 years ago Author

The animals are not put under a chair, that's just a figure of speech. If you've been on a plane you'll know this isn't possible, anyway. No seats have enough space under them to accommodate a pet carrier of any kind. They go on the floor in front of the passenger traveling with them, in the same area you might keep your purse or laptop.

Airline air duct systems are highly sophisticated and I've yet to smell *anything* on an airplane that wasn't an inch in front of me. (I find it hard to believe you'd smell a cat or dog that wasn't absolutely filthy, regardless.) Dog allergies are not at all common, but when they exist they are similar to cat allergies, which revolve around dander. A cat or dog in a carrier is not going to affect someone sitting in another row - how would you possibly come into contact with its dander or fur??

The 2 cat maximum is purely a legality. It's not even a safety measure - it's in place just to keep people from being overly litigious. If, however, you're allergic and don't want to sit next to someone traveling with a cat, it's easy enough for one of you to be re-assigned. People travel with pets in the cabin every day and no one else notices. If you've been on a plane, odds are you have, too!

Jewels profile image

Jewels 9 years ago from Australia

I have never heard of this before. What about passenger comfort, eg if a passenger has an allegy to cat hair for example. Or the smell factor, meaning animal owners are usually desensitised to animal smells, yet those who are not pet owners find these smells offensive. Your article is the first I'd heard of this. I think however, I would be making sure that my flights did not include animals under people's seats. I'm not trying to be argumentative with your post, please don't get me wrong. I am glad you made me aware of this.

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