(239) 344-8959

Get a Quote

What Happens on the Day Your Pet Flies

Published on: March 21, 2024  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

wing of airplane

After meticulously planning for weeks, or even months, the day of your pet's journey has finally arrived! If you're feeling a bit anxious, don't worry! Your thorough preparations should have you feeling confident and well-prepared for this moment.

By now, you should have:

Now, it's time for the pre-flight check, making sure everything is set for a smooth departure.

Pre-flight check

You must be buzzing with excitement, eager to reach your destination and embark on the next chapter of your journey. But before you set off, there are a few final tasks to attend to:

  • If your pet's assembled kennel is too large for your vehicle, consider disassembling it for easier transportation to the airport. Secure the hardware in a sandwich bag and tape it to the kennel for easy access when it's time to reassemble at the cargo terminal. Missing components could lead to the airline refusing your pet, so double-check everything. Attach the water and food dishes inside the kennel at a reachable height for your pet. And don't forget to pack a bag of dry food in case of layovers or flight delays.
  • Take a moment for a quick run or play session with your furry companion before heading to the airport. This exercise will help both of you relax, and a tired pet is more likely to snooze during the journey. Give your dog one last chance to relieve themselves before loading them into the kennel at the airport.
  • Be mindful of weather embargoes. Extreme temperatures can lead airlines to halt pet flights, so stay informed and have a backup plan in place. Hiring a professional animal transport company can help navigate such situations smoothly.
  • Remember, no sedatives! It's crucial that pets traveling by air are not sedated. Airlines and reputable pet transport companies prohibit the travel of tranquilized pets for safety reasons. Your pet will be calmer and safer without the influence of drugs.
  • Ensure you have all necessary travel documents for your pet and yourself. Missing paperwork could hinder your pet's travel plans, so triple-check everything.
  • Capture plenty of selfies with your pet to document your travel day. Your loved ones and social media followers will be eager to follow along with your journey.

At the airport

Upon arrival at the airport, the check-in process for your pet will differ based on their mode of travel. If you are flying with your pet in-cabin or as accompanied baggage on your own flight, head to the passenger terminal following your airline's guidelines and be punctual.

For pets traveling as cargo, the check-in takes place at the cargo terminal, a separate location from the passenger check-in. International travelers typically need to arrive at least 4 hours before departure, while domestic travelers should arrive 2 hours prior. Before check-in, ensure your dog has had a walk to relieve themselves. Cats should not be let out of the travel carrier unless they are in a safe and secure space. At the counter, airline staff will review your pet's paperwork, have the person dropping off the pet sign documents, and inspect the travel kennel for compliance and security. The thorough check-in process can take 1-2 hours.

Once check-in is complete, your pet will be under the care of airline staff, staying in a temperature-controlled room until boarding the aircraft. Pets are secured in the cargo area on the plane, which is temperature-controlled, pressurized, and oxygenated, ensuring their safety. Your pet will be fastened in place with a secure net or strap before takeoff.

On the plane

As previously mentioned, pets travel below the pilot in a specially designed area that is temperature-controlled, oxygenated, and pressurized. While there are no human passengers in this section, rest assured that the pilot is aware of your furry companions onboard. Your pet can relax and doze off to the soothing sound of the engine until touchdown.


If your pet is not on a direct flight and has a layover, rest assured they will be well taken care of during their stop. Some airlines offer their own on-site pet facilities for transitioning pets, while others collaborate with nearby agents to ensure pets are checked on. Depending on the duration of the layover, pets may either have a longer stay or receive a quick break for water and a potty break.

If you are utilizing a pet relocation company, they work with airlines that provide top-notch transit facilities like Lufthansa or KLM. These airlines offer on-site pet facilities where pets can have a comfortable break. Pets are given access to a private room with amenities such as potty breaks, food, water, and space to stretch their legs. Additionally, experienced animal handlers and veterinarians are available if needed.

Arrival to the destination

If your pet is traveling domestically, the arrival process is usually swift. After being carefully taken off the plane by airline staff, they will be brought to the cargo area for necessary processing. Once cleared, the designated "consignee" can pick them up, and they are then free to head home!

For international flights, the process can be more complex. If no quarantine is required, your pet will undergo customs clearance before being released to you. This procedure, including paperwork verification and compliance checks, can take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours or longer, depending on the destination.

In cases where quarantine is necessary at the destination, your pet will be escorted by quarantine staff to the designated facility for customs and import procedures. Depending on the country's regulations, visiting your pet during quarantine may or may not be permitted.

When they get home

Upon your pet's safe arrival home, it's crucial to ease them back into their regular routine. Avoid overfeeding or overhydrating your furry friend, especially if they are a large breed or deep-chested dog like a Great Dane. Excessive food, water, and activity right away can lead to bloat, a life-threatening condition.

Allow your pet to explore their new surroundings in a safe and secure manner, without rushing them into the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Some pets may act unfazed by the journey, while others might need a little time to adjust.

As you sit back and savor the anticipation of reuniting with your beloved feline or canine companion upon landing, remember to look forward to the exciting new chapter awaiting you both in your new home.

**Photo by Jerry Zhang on Unsplash

New Call-to-action

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.