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Travel with pets • 10 minutes to read

Everything You Need To Know About Flying With Pets To The U.K.

Are you traveling with your dog or cat on a plane to the United Kingdom for the first time and need help figuring out where to start? We’ve got you covered and are here to help alleviate your worries and answer your questions!

Since the U.K. has left the European Union, many rules and regulations for flying with animals into the region have changed and can differ from those you’d typically follow if you’re traveling with your dog to Europe and landing in an E.U. member country.

Keep reading as we give you the low down on the airline pet policies you need to be aware of, the fees and requirements you can expect to encounter, and all the travel essentials you’ll need for your vacation with your beloved pet.

Can I Fly To The U.K. With My Pet?

In most cases, bringing dogs, cats, or ferrets is quite straightforward, provided you arrive with all the necessary paperwork. If you’re flying with exotic animals, it can be a more complex process depending on where you’re traveling from, but it’s still possible to enter if you’re flying with other animals like rodents, reptiles, and rabbits.

What many travelers may not be aware of is that the regulations for flying to England, Scotland, and Wales vary from those applied in Northern Ireland. Despite being part of the U.K., Northern Ireland still follows E.U. regulations, but we’ll get into more detail later.

What Are The Rules For Bringing Pets To The U.K. After Brexit?

This is where things can get a little confusing! The post-Brexit rules have affected airline policies and required documents leading to a rule variance between Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland.

It’s a good idea to stay informed of the changes we’ve outlined below.

Since leaving the European Union, the E.U. pet health certificate is no longer one of the standard documents required to enter the U.K. with your pet, having been replaced by the Great Britain health certificate.

However, as Northern Ireland shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, an E.U. member, you’ll follow the E.U. rules if traveling here. This means that pet owners visiting Northern Ireland from countries in the Union can use their pet’s E.U. pet passport, while those arriving from outside the E.U. must present an E.U. pet health certificate.

Make sure you double-check that your pet’s journey is one of the approved routes; otherwise, you may not be able to enter, as some airlines can only allow pets on board when landing in particular airports.

What Are The Airline Pet Policies, Rules, and Limitations I Should Know About?

An important rule that may come as a surprise to many pet owners is that animals aren’t permitted to travel in the cabin if you’re visiting the U.K. The only exception to this is if you’re flying with service dogs. However, many airlines can carry your pet as manifest cargo.

Up to five pets per person are allowed to enter the U.K., though many airlines tend to have their own pet policies. These generally limit pets to one or two animals per person unless you’re traveling with small animals of the same species and breed that can fit in the same carrier.

As is often the case when traveling with pets, where you’re flying from and the airline you choose can determine the rules and limitations you must abide by. For reference, flying with your dog with United Airlines isn’t an option if you’re heading to the U.K.

Many airlines don’t have a cargo service and therefore can’t permit any animals to board flights to the U.K. This can limit the airlines that can allow your pet to travel. Check out British Airways, Delta and Lufthansa, as these are some of the best airlines for traveling with dogs and all operate international cargo services.

Cute dog pug breed paddleboarding at the lake

What Does Manifest Cargo Mean?

More than likely, your pet will need to fly to the U.K. as manifest cargo, meaning they’ll travel on a cargo plane to your destination.

Many airlines offer their own pet cargo service, and you’ll also find lots of pet relocation companies that can take you through the process, too.

When your precious pooch flies as manifest cargo, it will be placed in its crate into a pressurized, temperature-controlled part of a cargo plane. Flight schedules will often ensure you’ll land at your dog-friendly travel destination before your pup, giving you time to get prepared for their arrival.

Having your dog or cat travel in the hold of a cargo plane can be an understandably anxiety-inducing experience for both you and your pet. Below are some of the benefits of manifest cargo travel to help put your mind at ease.

  • You can track your pet using codes provided by the airline or relocation company.
  • The staff members are trained to give the best care to your pet before, during, and after the flight.
  • Animals are loaded onto the plane last and are the first to be unloaded, minimizing their time on the plane as much as possible.
  • The hold where pets travel is designed with animal safety in mind.

Which Airlines Allow Pets In A Cabin When Flying To The U.K.?

Currently, no airlines allow pets to travel in the cabin on flights to the U.K. due to the rules set out for pet air travel by the U.K. government. This rule applies regardless of whether you’re visiting from Europe, the U.S.A., Asia, or any destination.

However, if you’re traveling with assistance or service dogs, your animal can join you in the cabin. Unfortunately, this rule doesn’t extend to those flying with therapy dogs or emotional support pets.

What Fees Can I Expect To Pay To Fly With My Pet To The United Kingdom?

How Much Does It Cost To Fly A Pet From The U.S.A. to the U.K.?

When you’re bringing your furry friend to the U.K. from the States, they’ll have to fly as cargo, which means they won’t be traveling on the same plane as you. Instead, they’ll fly on a specialized cargo plane that will arrive in the U.K. as close to your landing time and date as possible.

You’ll need to pick your airline carefully, as only some don’t permit flying with your dog or cat internationally. For example, flying with dogs with JetBlue or flying with cats with Southwest will limit you to North American destinations.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give a breakdown of expected costs, as prices can vary hugely and airlines tend not to have a fixed cost, providing quotes based on your pet and destination. For transatlantic flights from the U.S.A. to the U.K., you can expect to pay anything from €500 – €4000 to ship your pet.

How Much Does It Cost To Fly A Pet From India to the U.K.?

If you’re traveling from further afield, you’ll likely face costs that may be even higher than those flying from the U.S.A.

Let’s say you’re traveling from a popular Asian destination like India, You’ll first incur some additional costs as you’ll need to present a negative rabies test, as well as your dog’s health certificate and vaccine records. Unsurprisingly, flying with a large dog will be more expensive.

Transporting your best friend from India to the U.K. will be costly but incredibly difficult to estimate, as this is a huge distance for your pet to travel. You might find yourself paying fees of more than €5000.

Do I Need A Pet Passport Or Health Certificate?

What Is A U.K. Pet Passport And Do I Need One?

A pet passport is a travel document containing up-to-date, relevant information about your pet’s age, health, and vaccination history.

Anyone bringing their pet to the U.K. from E.U. nations and other countries, including Norway or Switzerland, can enter the U.K. with a pet passport from their own country or a Great Britain health certificate (more on that next).

If you’re flying from the second list of countries, which includes countries like the U.S.A., Mexico, and Japan, you’ll need to obtain a Great Britain health certificate as you can’t use a pet passport from your own country.

What Is The Great Britain Pet Health Certificate And How Do I Get One?

The Great Britain Pet Health Certificate is a document that details your pet’s health, weight, vaccines, and microchip number, much like a pet passport. Dogs, cats, and ferrets can travel with this certificate. Take a look at the pet health certificate form, which you must bring to a certified vet to complete.

If the vet believes your pet is well enough to travel, they’ll fill out the form with all the necessary information about your furry friend. Each certificate is only valid for 10 days before your departure, so be sure to visit the vet within this timeframe.

Are you visiting from the U.S.A.? You’ll need to get your certificate endorsed by the USDA before flying to validate it. With this in mind, give yourself as much time as you can when booking your vet appointment, and avoid waiting until a day or two before you depart.

How Do I Get My Pet A Health Certificate For Travel?

First things first, you’ll want to make sure you know what certificate you need a few months in advance, whether it’s a pet passport or a Great Britain health certificate. If you require a health certificate, it’s best to contact your vet and check that they are licensed to declare your pet safe for travel, as you’ll need to locate a certified vet if not.

Next, take a look at your pet’s vaccination history to ensure they’re up-to-date with all of their shots, but especially their rabies vaccines, as this is compulsory for entry to the U.K. Book an appointment with your vet if your companion hasn’t been fully vaccinated against rabies, keeping in mind that initial doses need to have been administered at least 21 days before travel.

Once your pet is fully vaccinated, you can schedule a consultation with your vet up to 10 days before your trip. At this point, the vet will assess the animal’s health and travel risk. If it’s safe for your four-legged friend to fly, your vet will complete and sign the health certificate.

Will I Need To Get Another Health Certificate Before I Return To The U.K.?

You might be wondering how the pet travel process works if you reside in the U.K. and return from a holiday.

Thankfully, it’s usually quite straightforward. Your pet’s animal certificate is normally valid for four months, meaning you won’t have to pay a visit to a vet abroad if you haven’t visited countries outside the Pet Travel Scheme or where rabies is prevalent.

Anyone who’s been out of the U.K. with their pet for longer than four months will need to check in with a local vet to issue a new certificate for the return journey.

Young smiling couple holding their cat while taking a rest at the seaside

What Countries Are Part Of The Pet Travel Scheme?

Many countries are members of the Pet Travel Scheme, a program that’s in place to minimize animal quarantine for dogs, cats, and ferrets.

Though the documents you require to enter the U.K. can depend on where you’re coming from, if you’re flying from a member country, you can rest easy knowing you won’t have to worry about your pet undergoing quarantine on arrival.

As well as the U.K., countries that partake in the Pet Travel Scheme include E.U. members, the U.S.A., Singapore, New Zealand, and the U.A.E., among many others. Countries that aren’t involved in this scheme tend to be nations where the risk of rabies is high. Unfortunately, this can mean animals flying from the likes of China or India may require quarantine after landing in the U.K.

How Do I Import My Pet Into The U.K.?

Once you’ve started organizing your dog or cat’s flight to the U.K., you can be swamped with information that can make the planning process a headache!

Below, we’ve broken all the must-dos into steps and added tips to help you manage your journey with minimal stress.

  • Check that your dog meets the criteria for canines permitted to travel to the U.K., as some breeds are prohibited from entering (we’ll give you some examples a little later).
  • Research which airlines offer cargo service to the U.K. and compare their restrictions and fees, based on your dog’s size, weight, etc. Most airlines offering a cargo service have fare calculators online to give you a rough idea of what kind of costs you’ll be looking at.
  • Some airlines offer online booking for dogs traveling in the cargo, though it’s always a good idea to give them a call for any new or changing rules.
  • Inquire about direct routes rather than connecting flights where possible, as layovers can make the experience more nerve-wracking for your pet and can lead to additional costs for you.
  • Start ticking all the accessories you’ll need off your packing list, including a suitable kennel with the correct dimensions required by the airline, leak-proof bedding, and food and water containers that can be refilled from outside the crate.
  • Give your pup plenty of time to adjust to their kennel, ensuring they feel safe and comfortable spending extended periods inside. Crate training for a few months ahead of your flight will make the experience much less stressful for your pet.
  • Book an appointment with your vet within 10 days before your flight to get your pet’s health certificate.
  • Make a note of where you’ll need to drop off your pet and where you’ll collect them after you both arrive in the U.K.
  • Keep your documents organized, as your pet’s certificates and microchip will be checked after landing. Making copies of all your paperwork is your best bet, as the airline and U.K. border control may request or hold onto some documents.

What Are The Regulations For Flying With A Dog To The U.K.?

The U.K. imposes certain restrictions on dogs entering the region. Here are some factors that may make some dogs ineligible to fly to the U.K.:

  • Dogs must be vaccinated against rabies.
  • Only dogs 15 weeks old and above can travel.
  • All dogs must be microchipped and ISO-compatible chips are preferred.
  • Dogs can’t fly without a health certificate, which can be tricky to obtain for elderly or unwell pets.
  • Dogs must have had tapeworm treatment.
  • Snub-nosed breeds like French bulldogs and pugs often can’t travel in the hold as they may have difficulty breathing.
  • Aggressive dog breeds, including pit bulls, Japanese tosa and fila Brasileiro, are banned from the U.K., while some airlines have additional restrictions on what breeds can fly with them. This extends to dogs that are a mix of an aggressive and non-aggressive breed.

What Are The Regulations For Flying With A Cat To The United Kingdom?

Similarly, cats traveling to the U.K. must meet specific criteria to fly. Take a look through the regulations for cats:

  • Cats require health certificates, microchips, and rabies vaccines to enter the U.K., much like dogs.
  • Cats must be no less than 15 weeks old.
  • Wolf hybrid or savannah cats may require additional documentation.

Will My Pet Need To Be Quarantined In The U.K.?

As long as you have all the necessary documents for your pet and they appear in good health on arrival, there’s no need to panic about quarantine!

If you happen to be arriving from countries that aren’t on lists 1 or 2, you’ll need to follow some additional steps and prepare extra documents to prevent your pet from being quarantined. This can include rabies test results and proof of additional vaccines.

What Documents Will I Need To Fly To The U.K. With My Pet?

You might find that the paperwork you’ll need can depend on where you’re arriving from and the airline you’ve picked, but these are some of the documents you can expect to provide for your pet’s journey:

  • A pet passport, Great Britain health certificate, or animal health certificate from a registered vet, depending on where you’re traveling from.
  • Proof of rabies vaccination.
  • Records of other vaccines your pet has received.
  • Details of your pet’s microchip.
  • Blood test results if visiting from a country with a high risk of rabies.

Are There Any Other Import Requirements Or Regulations I Should Know About?

Some other regulations regarding the import of pets that it’s best to be aware of include:

  • Cat owners arriving from Australia must provide documents from the Australian Department of Agriculture to confirm their pet hasn’t been in contact with the Hendra virus during the 60 days before their trip.
  • Dogs and cats coming from Peninsular Malaysia must arrive with a certificate from the Malaysian government stating that your pet hasn’t been around pigs in the 60 days prior to your flight, as well as a negative blood test for the Nipah virus.
  • Dogs, cats and ferrets that have been given the Canvac R vaccine, must be at least 17 weeks old to travel, while animals that have received the Canvac DHPPiL + R vaccine must be a minimum of 21 weeks old.
  • If your pet appears unwell after being checked after landing, you’ll need to choose whether to place your pet in quarantine or have them returned to where they departed from.

How Do Commercial And Non-Commercial Pet Travel Compare?

A major bonus of non-commercial flights is the difference in rules for traveling with large dogs on planes and flying with dogs and cats in the cabin.

If you travel to the U.K. on a non-commercial flight, your pet can join you in the cabin, which is prohibited on all commercial flights to the region.

This has become a popular way to travel for pet owners who prefer flying with big dogs in the cabin rather than in the hold. It also makes flying with small dogs possible if your destination, like the U.K., doesn’t permit in-cabin travel with animals.

Of course, this comes with a price, as you’ll quickly see that flying with your dog with Delta or flying with a cat with American Airlines is significantly cheaper than flying on chartered planes. Non-commercial flights can be incredibly expensive, so it’s best to steer clear unless your pet can’t fly as cargo.

Can I Bring More Than 5 Pets To The U.K.?

Animal lovers hoping to visit the U.K. with more than five pets can only do so if you’re attending or training for a sporting event or competition.

If this applies to you, you must provide a written declaration stating that you’re attending or training for an event and proof of registration at the event in question. All of your pets must be at least six months old and meet the standard pet travel requirements.

This number differs between countries. For example, if you’re traveling with a dog to Canada, there is no limit on how many animals you can enter with, while anyone traveling with a cat or dog to Mexico can only fly with two pets.

Want more interesting tips and information on traveling? Read more Kiwi.com articles!

Frequently asked questions

Does British Airways Allow Pets In A Cabin?
British Airways, like all other U.K. airlines, doesn't allow pets to fly in the cabin. This is also the case for British Airways flights outside of the U.K. or that depart from the region.
Are Dogs Allowed At Heathrow Airport?
Dogs are allowed at Heathrow Airport if they're flying on a cargo plane or working as an assistance animal. All dogs must be kept on a leash or in a carrier at all times, and you'll find pet relief areas throughout the airport.
Can My Pet Fly Without Me?
Unless you're flying with a trained service animal, your pet must fly without you on a separate cargo plane. Planes flying to the U.K. don’t allow pets to fly in the cabin or as checked baggage on your flight.
Why Are Pets Not Allowed On Flights To The U.K.?
The U.K. has banned pets from flying on commercial flights in an effort to keep the nation rabies-free. *Disclaimer: Airline policies and specific rules for animals vary significantly between carriers and are frequently updated, with many situations dealt with on a case-by-case basis, which may change if flying with other animals. Always check the requirements directly with the airline and research your destination and stopover countries thoroughly.