Planning Your Flight: Domestic Pet Travel

20 December 2015
Read Time: 3.0 mins

Whether you're moving interstate or just taking your favourite four-legged companion on a holiday, Flight Centre can help ensure the fur doesn't fly on your pet's journey around Australia.

With various things to tick off before and during the flight, it's best to be prepared. Sit, stay and read up on hassle-free pet travel.

This is a compressed version. For the complete guide, visit our Planning Your Flight section.

 You won't get your pet on the plane without the proper pre-flight boxes ticked (Image: Getty)

Before The Flight

Visit the vet

The first step in pet travel is taking your furry friend to the vet for a check-up. For airlines to accept your pet for travel, they must be more than eight weeks old, appear to be in good health and not show signs of undue aggression.

The vet assessed your pet’s health and make sure their vaccinations, worming and flea and tick treatments are up-to-date. Ask them to provide a certificate for a clean bill of health as you may be required to show it when you check your pet in for their journey.

Many vets have pet First Aid Kits available for purchase, which are great for unexpected injury or illness.

Organise your container

All pets must travel in containers approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). You may choose to hire or purchase one from a company such as Dogtainers.

For domestic and short-haul journeys, plastic and steel mesh containers are the norm within Australia. Make sure there is plenty of room for your pet to stand up and lie down inside.

Containers come in various shapes, sizes and styles and include secured drinking cups so your pet can stay hydrated during the journey. Some containers are already fitted with protective kennel mats which can absorb liquids and odours, but you may have to purchase this item separately.

Get your pet used to their travel quarters

This is great for calming your pet's nerves (and your own!). Put their favourite toy or a comfort item in the container and encourage them to sleep in it, explore it and become comfortable with it at home. Taking your pet on short drives in the container may also help them become used to travelling in it.

 Make sure your pet spends plenty of time inside its travel container before flying (Image: Getty)

On-the-day domestic checklist

  • Go for a walk or play with your pet before heading to the airport to tire them out
  • Don’t feed them from at least six hours before the flight, but do give them plenty of water
  • Make sure there is a comfort item in the container
  • Ensure there is access to water and a waterproof mat inside
  • Bring their vet certificate and attach their ID collar to the outside of the crate
  • Pack any toys, food, leash and medication for the trip
  • Give them plenty of attention and keep them calm

For more tips and a detailed pet travel packing checklist, check out our travel blog where we speak to the RSPCA and Australian Assistance dogs for expert advice.


More Travel Tips:

Planning For Your Flight: Visa Facts

Planning For Your Flight: Baggage Guide


During The Flight

Where does my pet stay?

After you check your pet in (at least 90- to 120-minutes prior to departure), they are taken to the freight/cargo area. Airlines have staff trained in pet travel who care for your precious cargo on their journey.

Once your furry friend is accepted as cargo or checked baggage, they travel securely in the aircraft hold – a climate-controlled and safe space. The area is pressurised, just like the cabin, and most pets sleep comfortably during the flight.

 Ground crew ensure all travelling animals have the best possible experience (Image: Getty)

Will my pet be checked on during the flight?

The cabin crew do not access the hold during the flight, but the ground staff ensure your pet is securely loaded and are unloaded as soon as possible after landing.

After The Flight

Check with your consultant to find out where you can collect your pet after the flight. Like check-in, some airlines may require you to go to the cargo/freight section as opposed to the checked baggage area.

Seasoned pet travel pros recommend taking wet wipes to clean the container (and your little pal) at the destination. After they are out and about, give them a little light exercise, keep them hydrated and treat them to a good meal.

If you have cable-tied your pet’s container (and some airlines require that you do), pack a pair of scissors in your checked baggage to grant your pet freedom as soon as possible

 Make sure you have a post-flight treat handy (Image: Getty)

Earn points when your pets fly with Velocity

Did you know around two million pets take to the skies in the United States every year? The trend is catching on in Australia too, with the introduction of Virgin Australia’s pet frequent flyer program in 2013.

Through the Velocity frequent flyer program, your well-travelled canines and felines can earn you points when they fly domestically with Virgin Australia. A minimum of 300 points per pet carrier (maximum of two carriers) can be earned and will have you well on your way to climbing the rungs of the Velocity status levels.


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