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Trans-Atlantic flights with a dog

We’re planning an extended trip to Europe next year (90 - 120 days, France and the U.K.), and we want to take our 30 lb. labradoodle with us. We understand the entry requirements for our dog, but we were wondering if anybody had any recent experience with the airlines . She isn’t a service animal. She’s just a gentle, laid back lady of 9 years.

Bruce

Posted by
4700 posts

Wouldn't she have to go in the cargo hold? (Too big to put in a pet carrier and carry on board, like a cat or small dog?). I'd never risk putting a pet in the cargo hold like that - too many stories of something going wrong where the hold depressurizes by mistake or something.

Posted by
7831 posts

Why not ask your airline what/how they transport an animal of that size.

Different airlines may ( probably) do it differently, so 'general' advice may not be particularly helpful.

Posted by
8293 posts

If you cross on the Queen Mary 2 it would be lovely for your dog. There is a great dog kennel on one of the upper decks and you could visit her every day.

Posted by
7878 posts

Air France does a good job with animals, but you really need a direct flight. We used to be gone six to 9 months at a time, but always sent our four-legged family member to stay with family. It is a difficult decision whether she comes with you or stays. Norma's suggestion is the best, but kennel space needs to be reserved early. An inside cabin for you can be very reasonable.

Posted by
99 posts

Yes, she probably would have to go in the hold, and we aren’t keen on that. But, I thought I’d ask to see if anybody had any recent experience. It might influence our choice of airlines. We can drive to any major airport in the eastern US or Canada.

Or we might use the Queen Mary 2. We’ve been looking at that option too. It’s sounding better to us all the time. I wonder if anybody has tried that?

Bruce

Posted by
8889 posts

You also have to consider your transport within Europe. You say "(90 - 120 days, France and the U.K.),". Of those, no more than 90 days can be in France (infamous Schengen Area "90 days in any 180" limit).
Are you going to be travelling by car or train? Most trains allow dogs, but one notable exception is the Eurostar trains through the Channel Tunnel. So you either need to cross the Channel by car (car through the Channel Tunnel dogs are allowed), but you then need to get the car back again; or on a ferry, or by air,
See here for more details: https://www.seat61.com/dogs-by-train.htm

Posted by
99 posts

Hi, Chris. All of our travel in-country would be by car, and we would cross the channel by ferry. Our itinerary would include a limited number of destinations for longer time periods. We’ve been traveling in Europe for a couple of decades, so we’ve got a good handle on the Schengen Area regulations. We’ll spend a couple of months in France then cross over the Channel. We’ll book our return trip out of the U.K.

Bruce

Posted by
344 posts

We travel to Europe with my husband’s guide dog so our experience will be a bit different from yours because she travels in cabin. My suggestion to you would be to get a nonstop flight from the East Coast. We typically fly from the West to Newark and spend the night at a hotel. The next evening we fly nonstop to our gateway city. If it’s a morning flight the dog skips breakfast and is only offered a little water. Limit input to limit output. If it’s an evening flight she gets half her breakfast and water up until noon. On the plane we have a blanket for her and she just goes to sleep until our arrival. Once we arrive and clear any paperwork check, we feed her and give her plenty of water and then take her out to relieve. She has never had an accident and knows once we are at an airport to fully relieve in the appropriate place. The first day arriving at your destination offer plenty of water to rehydrate your dog. Do not medicate the dog for the flight. We were very nervous the first time, and the dog did great.

Posted by
86 posts

I agree with the above post recommending Air France if you have to travel with a pet. When we moved from the US to Prague, we had to put our old lady basset hound in the cargo hold, and Air France took good care of her. The gate agent at Charles de Gaulle even called the pilot on the plane we were going to take from Paris to Prague to make sure that he would personally pressurize the cargo hold for her! One heads-up: some airlines won't fly with animals in the cargo hold when the ground temp is too cold, and some won't fly with them when it's too hot (above 85F). So you may need to choose your travel dates accordingly. Finally, if you are connecting, Air France requires that you pick up all your luggage, including your dog, transport everything to the new check-in counter, and re-check it in to the second flight. My husband, two kids, and I had a 90-minute connection at Charles de Gaulle: we went through passport control, ran down to baggage, picked up our dog and luggage, ran across the terminal with two carts (one of which was sloshing a mix of water and pee all over the floor--which we got cleaned up), then ran outside and crossed a parking lot to another terminal, checked everything in again, and ran to our plane. We made our flight and even had time to go to the bathroom first!

Posted by
409 posts

Be sure you know all the requirements for a dog's passport!

We had plans a few months ago for a friend from England to visit us here in Ireland. He wasn't able to get the dog passport as quickly as he had hoped, so the dog couldn't come!! That was a surprise for him....

I'm with the writer above who said "take the cruise ship!" I've had many dogs over the years, and I would NEVER fly with one that couldn't be in the cabin. There are way too many horror stories. (Do you know how COLD it gets in the hold??)

Good luck!

Susan
Expat living in Waterville, Ireland

Posted by
647 posts

Bruce,

I was on an American Airline flight from LHR to Chicago this past summer and to my surprise the young couple next to me had a dog with them. It was not a service dog - just a regular pet who had gone on vacation! (Australian mix about 50-70 pounds). I was seated in the aisle seat of a bulkhead (three seat configuration) row. The owners had the middle and window seat and the dog pretty much stayed in the corner on the floor for the entire trip. He did not make a sound and was very well behaved - although I think he may have had a little medication to keep him this way. I noticed they had a ton of paperwork with them and the flight attendance all seemed to have had advanced notice of the dog being on the flight. So, it is possible. They did tell me their connecting flight was about 5-6 hours so they could have time to take care of the extra requirements of transporting an animal. So my advice would be to get the Bulkhead row so you are at least able to have a little extra floor space and no chance of seats reclining into the dog. No one seemed to mind the animal being on the plane. I am sure some passengers were not even aware of it. Not sure how you take care of any bathroom needs on such a long flight. I know most dogs can hold it that long - but in a strange place that can be a little anxiety inducing -could be a problem.

Margaret

Posted by
344 posts

To mpaulyn

That 50-70 pound Australian Shepard on your flight would have been either a service dog or an emotional support dog, not a pet. Only service dogs and emotional support dogs can fly in cabin out of a carrier. Not all service dogs wear special harnesses or vests identifying them as such. I hope the young couple did not take their pet and claim it was an emotional support dog.

Posted by
647 posts

You are correct - I only assumed it was not a service dog and it may well have been. I work in the field of special education and mental health - and I would like to think I am more inclined to pick up on things like this - With the conversation I had with the young couple I really thought it was just a pet and I was a little confused about how they could fly it in the cabin. - I will be honest I don't really know what the rules are - all I know it was a first for me to have a dog on a trans Atlantic flight - and I have flown this route about . 30 + times.

Posted by
300 posts

If you cross on the Queen Mary 2 it would be lovely for your dog. There is a great dog kennel on one of the upper decks and you could visit her every day.

Kennel space on QM2 sells out long in advance, but it's doable with enough advance planning. Another downside (for some) is that the kennel space - particularly for a larger dog requiring two pens - costs about the same as one passenger's cruise fare.

For most people the 7-day transit time in each direction (no ports of call en route) is a bit of a deterrent but I understand that the OP is in a position to be leisurely in their travel.

Posted by
26448 posts

Does the Queen Mary 2 really take a full week? We used to cross on normal transatlantic liners from New York to Southampton in just over 4 days, 5 at the most.

That was on proper ships, not the cruise cities now used, like SS United States, Mauritania, Queen Elizabeth (the original), and many more. Granted that that was in the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s so around 50 to 60 years ago, but I would have thought that they would have sped up not slowed down....

Posted by
8293 posts

Yes, Nigel, the crossing is 7 days. It doesn’t take 7 days but Cunard makes it take 7 days now. The first time I crossed in 2005 it was a 5 day journey but apparently most passengers find that too short a time to indulge in all the fancy stuff on offer, so 7days it is now and sometimes it’s even 8 days with a stop in Halifax or Hamburg.

On our last crossing from UK to NYC, a crew member went overboard and about 5 hours was spent searching, back and forth, back and forth. Nevertheless the QM2 docked at Halifax exactly on time the next day.

Posted by
21356 posts

......he would personally pressurize the cargo hold for her..... One of the flying myths is that the cargo area is not pressurized. You could not fly a plane with the top have pressurized and lower half not. Both areas are equally pressurized and heated.

Unfortunately I think there are a lot of comfort dogs that are nothing more than a family pet with a fancy cover that they bought on the internet.

Posted by
344 posts

Frank, you echo my thoughts regarding”comfort” dogs and the abuse of claiming the need to fly with such a dog. There is no requirement that an emotional support dog be trained for anything. It makes it harder for a disabled person with a highly trained and need service dog to fly, go to hotels, restaurants and carry on in daily activities.

Posted by
8293 posts

The so-called comfort dog is being used as a bit of a scam by some travellers, in my opinion. Just last week a woman brought a small dog into the food court at a local mall which had a sign reading "No Dogs. Pas des Chiens". I pointed out the sign to her and she said it was a comfort dog. As I approached the Security guy to get him to check that out with her, she and the dog suddenly left . Busted!

When we crossed on the QM2 year before last there was a woman with a dog. It was not wearing a service dog vest and she had no visible disability, plus she had a male travelling companion whom I took to be her husband. It puzzled me at the time, but I now believe she was claiming it a comfort dog whose comfort apparently was not needed at meal times, in the ship library, or at the ship theatre. Really exploitive and somewhat immoral.

Posted by
4743 posts

Yeah, we have a relative who has registered (on the internet) her small dog as an "emotional support animal," so she can keep it in the hotel room with her. Totally bogus. I know there are people out there with legitimate service dogs (and cats!) but this is abusing the system.

My niece has put her dog through a number of training courses; he's now a qualified therapy dog. But the do not take him on pleasure or business trips. Instead, they take him to schools for kids with mental or emotional problems, nursing homes...

Posted by
344 posts

Jane, persons with therapy dogs do not have the same rights as a disabled person with a service dog. Therapy dogs are great in the right setting, but there is no right to public access such as hotels, planes or restaurants. I am glad your niece knows the difference. When my husband’s guide dog retires, she will train to be a therapy dog so she can visit nursing homes. No more trips to Europe for her as she will no longer be a service dog.

Posted by
4743 posts

Oops, my niece with the trained, registered, therapy dog is NOT the same person with the "emotional support" animal.

Posted by
2 posts

Hello,
Disclaimer: this experience is 5 years old and applies to LHR only.

When we moved here 5 years ago with our 4 Australian Shepherds, they had to fly cargo.
And as there was a requirement that shippers of cargo needed to be "known shippers", we had to hire a pet transport company. (I think this requirement came in shortly after the printer ink cartridge bombs were found.)

The dogs managed fine and were well treated as far as we could tell.
Coming in from the US, there is no quarantine requirement provided all the paperwork was correct.

We flew nonstop, Newark to LHR on UA.
As the dogs were used to being indoors most of the night without relief, we chose a night flight.
That way, upon arrival in LHR and transported to the Animal Arrival Center, they were ok when they were let out into the kennel.

The pet transport company was excellent. They handled all the paperwork on the US side and on the UK side. All we had to do was to hand the crates to the staff at EWR and pick up the dogs on the other side.

That said, a few cautions to get to that point:
Make sure you study and follow the rules/regulations closely, including the required minimum size for crates and all the vet paperwork that is needed. We needed to get the dogs chipped a second time because their previous chip was US-centric and we were not sure the EU chip readers would read them (why take the chance?) Also, we had to redo one of the vet examinations because the dog had been re-chipped AFTER the initial pet passport exam. The chipping has to be done first so the vet can certify that the dog with a certain chip number is the one that was examined.
Also, do not tranquillise the dog. You want it to have its wits in the very slight case something does happen.

But part of what you will be paying the pet transport company is for their knowledge of what the paperwork needs to be so there are no surprises on arrival. Map out the timelines, schedule the trip and run it by the transport company. And book early as UA only took a certain number of live animals on each trip.

I would suggest you look at whether it is really worth the effort and cost. For example, if the pet passport is not filled out correctly on arrival at UK passport control at the ferry dock, they can require the animal to be placed into quarantine until you take the animal back to France and have a French vet resolve any deficiencies.

Again, I cannot speak of how CDG will handle things. Your mileage will likely be different.