Flying with Dogs France USA

Review: Flying XL Airways from Paris to New York with a Dog

Flying XL Airways with a dog

Note: As of 23rd September 2019, XL Airways has ceased operations.

When I started looking at one-way flights from Europe to the United States that were both affordable and allowed a dog in the cabin, it seemed like an impossible task. Many of the main airlines that are often recommended for flying dogs across the Atlantic, such as Lufthansa and Air France, charge a fortune for a one-way ticket, even more than a return. And many of the budget airlines on this route such as Norwegian, don’t allow pet dogs to fly this route. However, I finally discovered XL Airways, an airline that I had previously not heard of, who were both affordable and allowed dogs in the cabin! Read on to find out my experience flying XL Airways with a dog, between Paris and New York.

Find out more about flying to Europe with your dog from the USA

Who is XL Airways?

XL Airways is a French airline based out of Charles de Gaulle Airport, that flies to many international destinations, principally from CDG. Some of the destinations include New York (where we were headed), Reunion Island, Cancun and Tel Aviv.

They’re halfway between a full-service and a budget airline. One piece of check-in luggage is included, but in turn the weight limit for your carry-on is a tiny 5kg. A hot meal is included on the flight, but you also have the option to pay extra for more gourmet choices. Plus while water and coffee/tea during the meal service is included, all other drinks are additional.

We were happy with these options, as we’re used to budget airlines, so went ahead with booking our flight to New York.

Pet Rules for XL Airways

Flying XL Airways with a pet

Flying with a pet in the cabin on board XL Airways

If you’re wanting to fly with a pet on XL Airways, there’s two options available to you. Smaller dogs and cats that weigh no more than 7kg including their carrier bag can travel in the cabin, under the seat in front of you. The maximum dimensions of the bag are restricted to 55 x 40 x 23 cm. A fee of $55 or €50 is charged.

Alternatively, larger animals can travel in the hold of the aircraft, as checked baggage. The usual requirements for crates/cages apply, plus you must sign a form agreeing to the conditions of travel. A fee of $77 or €70 is charged.

Note also that only dogs and cats are allowed to fly with XL Airways, not other species of animals, and they must be at least 3 months of age. As is common, Brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs and cats are not permitted in the hold, and both Category 1 (attack) and Category 2 (defence and guard) dogs as defined by French Law are not permitted at all.

Booking a Pet on XL Airways

To add a pet dog or cat to your booking, you’ll need to call the customer service centre. This was our first experience of the “budget” aspect of XL Airways. Both times we called up, we were on hold for over an hour. This was far longer than any other airline we had to call to book our dog’s flight.

As always, I recommend calling up the airline before booking your own tickets, to confirm that pets are definitely allowed on your flight (pets may not be allowed on some chartered aircraft) and that there is still availability (as the number of pets is usually limited). It was unfortunate that we had to deal with being on hold twice! But the actual booking process for our dog went smoothly once we got through.

We also had an issue booking directly on their website using our Australian credit card, but were able to get around this by booking our tickets through Expedia. I’m not sure of the reason for the transaction not going through.

Our Flight Experience

Flying XL Airways

Waiting to board our XL Airways flight at CDG

One frequent complaint about XL Airways is that flights are often delayed. This occurred to us, with an email notification received shortly before check-in opened. Strangely the display boards at the airport all kept on saying the flight was “On time”, but it was 45 minutes late departing, as we were originally informed.

At the check-in counter, our dog’s pet passport and health certificate (as requested when we booked) were checked. The key detail checked was his rabies vaccination expiry date. He was also weighed in his pet carrier bag, although no check was made of the actual dimensions.

It was a bit of a chaotic experience boarding the flight, although this was probably because the aircraft was far larger than on the recent flights we’d taken within Europe, seating about 400 passengers. A nice touch though was that the head flight attendant sat down and had a quick chat with us just after we boarded, after seeing we were travelling with a pet.

Unfortunately, not long after while we were waiting for boarding to finish, for the first time ever on a flight, our dog barked a number of times. Perhaps it was because we’d been hanging at the airport for quite a while (our flight was in the evening, quite a while after our hotel check-out time, plus we’d had the delay). Or perhaps our dog realised about now was his usual dinner time. (Naturally, we didn’t feed him just before a long flight. We also didn’t give him any water after taking him outside fo a final pet relief break.)

Despite the usual rule about leaving pets in their bag, for everyone’s sanity we gave him a cuddle outside his bag for a short period, and then put him back in his bag. He then settled down and was peaceful for the rest of the flight, probably sleeping for most of it in the darkened cabin.

Unfortunately our experience of the flight wasn’t as comfortable. The seats were some of the smallest we’ve flown in. On a quick 1 or 2 hour flight it wouldn’t have been a problem, but for an 8 hour flight between Paris and New York, including meal service and a bathroom break or two, it was quite squished. After the meal service I got up just to stretch my legs and body, cramped from sitting in the middle seat. It didn’t help that the flight seemed virtually full.

Our Verdict?

While nothing fancy, the affordable price makes XL Airways a great choice for flying between Paris and the USA with your dog, whether just flying one way like we were or on a return flight. Keep in mind the limitations and additional charges that may apply, as this isn’t quite a full-service airline. But in spite of the cramped seating, it was worthwhile putting up with for just 8 hours, for the huge price saving we made.

Additionally, it may be worthwhile considering paying extra for specific seats. This is something that we didn’t investigate, as many other airlines we’ve flown with don’t permit booking specific seats when you’re flying with a dog, but XL Airways don’t mention this in their pet policy. In particular, towards the rear of the aircraft are “duo seats”, where there are just two seats instead of three next to the window. You can also pay extra for exit row seats, but these are unlikely to be permitted if you’re travelling with a pet. I would recommend checking with the service centre staff when booking your pet.

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  • Reply
    October 27, 2018 at 9:54 am

    Thanks for this review! Very informative. We are taking our dog in an XL flight in December (our first flight with this airline) and am feeling a bit better now that I know what to expect. I also had issues using my credit card on their website. After a few calls to my bank and VISA it finally worked.

    • Reply
      October 27, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      Odd that they have issues with credit cards! I’m glad we weren’t the only ones. And have a great trip in December!

  • Reply
    October 31, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Hi,thank you for your post. So helpful ! I’m going to do the same trip with my 2 cats. Where did you buy your carrier?

    • Reply
      October 31, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      I got the carrier at a pet store in Cologne, Germany. It’s a fairly basic one, and was actually to replace one almost the same that we bought in Seville, Spain, after our dog chewed on the zipper. Most larger pets stores will have at least a few to choose from. My preference is to get something small (the sizes specified by airlines are quite small, although with soft bags there’s some wiggle room), light (as there’s a weight limit) and ideally that can zip flat (to store in the back of our rental car). Wishing you all the best with your trip!

      • Reply
        November 1, 2018 at 12:53 am

        Hi sorry for my double post .
        Thank you for your answer

  • Reply
    November 1, 2018 at 12:51 am

    Hi, thank you for your post . So helpful.I am going to do the same trip with my 2 cats soon. Where did you buy your soft carrier for your dog?

  • Reply
    May 16, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Hi thanks for writing this article! Please could you advise where you purchased the pet carrier from and what size. I’m struggling to find one that is compliant with their size regulations. Is it true that it’s 9 inches in height is the max? We are flying out in two weeks

    • Reply
      May 16, 2019 at 5:34 pm

      Our carrier is a bit taller than 9″, at 10.25″. However, it still fit under the seat – as it’s soft there is always some wiggle room, and the airlines are usually flexible. They didn’t actually check the height of the carrier at check-in, only the weight.

      In terms of where we purchased it, we bought it at a pet store in Germany, I can’t remember the brand. This type of carrier is quite common in Europe – we had also bought an earlier one in Spain that needed to be replaced after Schnitzel chewed the zipper!

  • Reply
    Nela Monasterio
    June 26, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    This is a super helpful article, thank you for writing it !! In two months I´ll be taking an XL transatlantic flight with my cat. I´m very concern about the space under the seats, it seems like some they have a metallic box under which takes some room. Do you have any advice regarding the seat selection ?

    • Reply
      June 27, 2019 at 8:38 am

      On our row (one behind the exit row in the middle of the plane), the metal box was under the aisle seat. My husband and I were meant to be sitting in the aisle and middle seat, but got confused and sat in the window and middle seat. When the other man in our row arrived, he was fine for us to keep those seats.

      At check-in, I would mention that you need room under the seat in front and not to be seated in the aisle seat if it has the box. If you discovered you happen to be seated with the box, you could also try and swap on the plane, which is what we ended up doing.

      XL also has duo seats, where it is just a pair of seats next to each other, for an additional price. I know someone who booked those seats so they had more room, but I’m not sure if those seats have the metal box. I would do this option next time, as the seats are quite narrow.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 2:01 am

    hi im travelling on Sunday, i have an EU pet passport (contains rabies stuff and his tapeworm treatments). the agent says they only ask for what department of agriculture of the destination requires, which doesn’t include a health certificate (certificate of good health) what the health certificate the France health certificate meaning his paperwork such as vaccines or was it an actual declaration that the dog is healthy? thank you so much

    • Reply
      July 26, 2019 at 12:37 am

      The health certificate declared he was healthy. We actually got it in Athens as we firstly flew from there. I was told we needed this when booking, but if you weren’t told, maybe it is no longer required. The check in agent looked at it, but maybe they were just interested in his rabies vaccine (in his passport).

  • Reply
    August 2, 2019 at 1:19 am

    We flew twice on XL . Both times it was tolerable with our pet. I always get a middle seat to avoid bars and extra metal and it seems to work. Next time I would pay for the larger seats. My hubby is a big guy and he was a little crampy. We flew non stop from CDG to LAX.

    • Reply
      August 2, 2019 at 7:43 am

      Larger seats would be a good move, especially on the long flight to LAX.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2019 at 9:39 am

    Don’t ever fly this airline. C’est de la merde, the way they treat people!

    • Reply
      August 20, 2019 at 1:07 pm

      Frederika – It’s not the most comfortable airline, but in our case where we flew one-way and needed a dog-friendly airline, it fit our requirements and we put up for the flight.

  • Reply
    William C Swanson
    November 11, 2019 at 5:22 am

    Hate to say it, but you should take down this page. XL discontinued all flights and went into bamkruptcy on Sept. 23, 2019.

    • Reply
      November 19, 2019 at 9:26 pm

      William – Thanks for the message. I added a note in bold at the top of the page when this happened stating this, but have left the post live for now, as there was a chance the airline would be rescued. I’ll look at removing it soon.

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