Europe Flying with Dogs

Flying to Europe with a Dog from the USA

Flying to Europe with a Dog

Europe is the most dog-friendly part of the world to travel with a dog. It’s no wonder then that if you live in the USA, that you might want to consider taking your dog along with you on a European vacation. But how easy is it to fly to Europe with a dog from the USA? And what other considerations do you need to keep in mind when flying to Europe with a Dog?

Check out these photos for some inspiration for your dog-friendly European vacation

Preparations Before Flying to Europe with a Dog

One of the first things you need to consider when you decide to take your dog to Europe, is the veterinary and paperwork preparations that you required. For dogs travelling to the European Union (the majority of countries in Europe), I list the steps required in this post.

If you’re travelling directly from the USA, the steps are quite simple (and you can skip a couple):

  1. Microchip your dog
  2. Vaccinate your dog against rabies
  3. Complete an animal health certificate

Your dog is likely to already be vaccinated against rabies, but if it doesn’t have a microchip, then it will need to be microchipped and then re-vaccinated. Note that the microchip needs to be ISO compliant and readable by standard microchip readers. If your dog is being vaccinated against rabies for the first time, the vaccine needs to be done at least 21 days before arriving in Europe.

The trickiest part is getting an EU animal health certificate (or “EU Annex IV”). This needs to be done by a accredited veterinarian within 10 days of your arrival in the EU. However, you also need to get it certified by a USDA APHIS Veterinary Services endorsement office. This can be tricky if there isn’t one located near you; if posting the certificate for endorsement, use expedited mail including tracking. Note that many offices require appointments. There is a $38 USD fee per endorsement.

Pet travel to Europe

The USDA APHIS office in Los Angeles, near LAX

There are also a handful of European countries that require your dog to have a worming treatment done by a veterinarian between 24 hours and 5 days of arriving in them: Finland, Ireland, Malta, Norway and the UK.

Due to the trouble of getting an animal health certificate endorsed by USDA, many people who travel to Europe multiple times with their pet get an EU pet passport. This can then be used in place of getting an EU animal health certificate. The only complication then is that you’ll need to get your pet’s rabies vaccines in Europe from now on, as only vets in the EU can add records to the passport.

Finding a Pet-Friendly Airline to Fly to Europe

The next important step is finding a pet-friendly airline to fly yourself and your dog to Europe. Unfortunately, some airlines that normally allow pets to fly in cabin, don’t allow this on Trans-Atlantic flights, in particular American airlines.

Flying with a European Flag-Carrier Airline

In general, the European flag-carrier airlines are most likely to allow your pet to fly in the cabin with you to Europe. Based on discussions with other travellers flying from the USA to Europe with their dog, the most commonly recommended airlines are Air France, KLM and Lufthansa. All three airlines allow dogs to fly both in the cabin and in the hold on their Trans-Atlantic flights. Here are some details about each airline:

  • Air France: Dogs up to a maximum weight of 8kg (17.6lb), including carrier, are permitted in the cabin, with a fee equivalent to €125 (about $140 USD) charged. Dogs up to 75kg (165lb) are permitted in the hold, with a fee equivalent to €200 (about $225 USD) charged. It’s possible to buy travel containers for the cabin and hold directly off Air France for delivery to the USA. Read their full pet policy.
  • KLM: KLM also has a maximum weight of 8kg (17.6lb) for pets in the cabin. The charge for each pet depends on your departure and destination airport. Note that pets are not permitted in business class on intercontinental flights, due to the seat design. Read their pet policy.
  • Lufthansa: Lufthansa also has a weight limited of 8kg (17.6lb) including carrier for pets in the cabin. For transport in the cabin, a fee of $115 USD is charged to/from the East Coast, $126 USD to/from the West Coast. Prices for pets in the hold depend on the crate size. Read their pet policy, plus additional information if you are connecting to or from a United Airlines flight.

For information on the pet policies of more European flag-carriers, check out my guide, including which airlines allow pets in the cabin.

Flying with a European Budget Airline

Unfortunately, not many of the budget European airlines permit dogs to fly on Trans-Atlantic flights, even if they permit dogs to fly on their flights within Europe. I found this to be problematic when I was flying one-way from Europe to the USA with my dog, and the flag-carrier airlines were mainly charging astronomical prices for one-way flights.

Take dog to Europe

Flying with a pet in the cabin on board XL Airways

The main option I’ve uncovered is XL Airways. This small airline operates out of Paris, flying to and from New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco. For pets travelling in the cabin, a lower maximum weight of 7kg (15.4lb) applies, with a $55 USD fee charged. The cost for dogs and cats in the hold is $81 USD. Read my review of flying XL Airways with a dog to New York, or view their pet policy.

Flying with a US Airline

If you are wanting to fly with your dog in the cabin, not many American airlines still permit this on Trans-Atlantic flights. Both American Airlines and more recently United Airlines stopped allowing pets in the cabin on Trans-Atlantic flights.

The only American airline I could find that allows pets in the cabin on flights to Europe is Delta. For pets in the cabin, there is no maximum weight, just a maximum kennel size that depends on the flight (check at the time of booking). A charge of $200 USD applies and only up to four pets are allowed in the cabin. Read their pet policy.

If you are happy for your pet to fly in the hold, including if your dog is too big to fly in the cabin, you have a larger range of options. Check with the individual airline for their pet policy. If flying to Europe during the summer months, keep in mind temperature restrictions may apply. Perhaps consider taking an overnight flight that departs late in the day then arrives early in the morning in Europe.

Note: If you’re flying out of the UK, Air Canada is one of the few airlines that accepts pets in the cabin and as checked baggage, instead of only as cargo, see  their pet policy. (Although pets need to fly as cargo on flights to the UK.)

Minimise the Flight Duration

There’s not much room for your dog on a long flight…

Another consideration to keep in mind is the length of a flight. When I last flew from Europe to the USA with my dog, I purposely organised my travels to fly from Paris to New York, to minimise the flight duration. This is especially important if you want to fly with your pet in the cabin.

In order to keep your flight duration to a minimum, consider taking a connecting flight on either end. For example, firstly fly from the West Coast to the East Coast, before flying on to Europe. Also consider taking a second flight within Europe to get to your final destination. This is also an option if you don’t find a pet-friendly airline that flies directly to your final destination.

What About Emotional Support Animals?

If your pet is recognised as an emotional support animal in the USA but is too large to normally travel in the cabin of a plane (over 17.6lb for most European airlines), carefully check their policy regarding emotional support animals. Some of the European airlines will allow emotional support animals to travel in the cabin on flights to and from the USA, but not always on other flights in Europe. Check their online pet policy or call a customer contact centre for clarification.

Prefer to cruise rather than fly? Find out more about the kennels aboard the Queen Mary 2 Trans-Atlantic Crossings

Preparing Your Dog for Their Flight to Europe

Preparing your pet for a long flight to Europe can be daunting, even if you have previously flown with your pet. Based on my experience flying with my dog multiple times on long flights, these are my tips:

  • Adjust your pet’s meal times if required, feeding them at least a few hours before the flight, not immediately before it, in case of an upset stomach. Don’t give them too much to drink either.
  • Take your dog to a pet relief area as close to the flight as possible, either immediately before boarding or before going through security. This is especially problematic at European airports which tend not to have designated pet relief areas. Generally you need to take your pet outside the terminal building to some grass.

One of the pet relief areas at Washington Dulles Airport

  • This is a little easier to handle if your dog has been trained to use puppy pads. Some other travellers travelling with a pet in the cabin report using the plane’s bathroom to give their dog a break mid-flight. My dog isn’t trained at this (although is fine to hold on for 8 hours, if given minimal fluids), plus those bathrooms are tiny!
  • On the flight, dogs travelling in the hold should have a water container attached to their crate. In the cabin, feel free to give your dog some fluids, but don’t give them too much. Some other travellers use ice cubes.
  • Get your dog used to their crate or carrier ahead of time, regardless of whether they are travelling in the cabin or hold. Hopefully your dog just falls asleep and sleeps for most of the flight. To aid with this, either give them a big walk beforehand or fly overnight, when they’d normally be sleeping.
  • If your dog is travelling in the hold, sedation is not usually recommended. (Sedatives can affect your dog differently at altitude, plus there is no-one to assist if something goes wrong.) If you are concerned, speak to your veterinarian ahead of time, allowing time to test treatments. Most dogs cope better than you expect.

See also my guide to flying with your dog in the cabin in Europe.

Returning to the USA with Your Dog

The process to return to the USA with your dog is much the same as flying to the USA, although somewhat easier. I discuss the vaccines and paperwork required in this post. The requirements can vary between states, but in general all that is required is a rabies vaccination certificate, which you already used to travel to Europe.

Most airlines will also require a health certificate, that you can get from any vet within Europe. Check with your individual airline about their requirements.

I’ve also recently found out that Italy requires a pet export certificate, including a visit to the local ASL (“Azienda Sanitaria Locale”) office. (For more details, click here.) However, I haven’t heard of this being required when leaving any other European country.

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How to Fly to Europe with Your Dog from the USA

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  • Reply
    Ryan K Biddulph
    May 29, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Excellent breakdown here. More folks fly with their pooches these days.

    • Reply
      May 30, 2019 at 8:36 am

      Thanks Ryan!

  • Reply
    Ashley Key
    June 11, 2019 at 2:54 am

    Nice breakout! We’re moving to England with our pup and have completed most of these steps. Now to just make it through customs…

    • Reply
      June 11, 2019 at 9:14 am

      All the best with your move! Customs in Europe is usually fairly easy, but the UK checks are strict!

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