Have you ever tried to fly with your dog or cat from the EU to the United Kingdom (UK)? If you have, you’ll be aware that pet flight options from continental Europe to the UK are in short supply. Although you can fly out of the UK with your dog or cat in the cabin, this isn’t an option for the return journey from the EU, or any other location. Under the UK Pet Travel Scheme, you can take a pet cat or dog to the UK only in the cabin of a private aircraft. On commercial flights to the UK, all animals can only travel in the hold of the plane. However, snub-nosed breeds aren’t allowed to fly in the hold due to breathing issues they can encounter in the pressurised environment. Therefore, if you’re travelling with a snub-nosed cat or dog, they won’t be able to return to the UK by plane as they’re not allowed to fly in the hold as checked baggage. Although some airlines transport snub-nosed pets as cargo, this isn’t recommended. We’ve listed some of the airlines that allow cats and dogs to enter the UK from the EU in the hold of the plane, but, be aware that only a few airports in the UK are DEFRA approved to handle pet arrivals. Upon landing at one of the approved airports, your cat or dog will be collected from the hold to be checked at the airport Pet Reception Centre. Once their health and travel documentation have been verified, your cat or dog is free to enter the UK. Rather than flying to the UK with your pet, you may find it more convenient and cost effective to either sail on a pet friendly ferry, or take the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Keep reading to find out more about pet friendly airlines that fly to the UK from the EU with cats and dogs in the hold of the plane.
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Table of contents
- Can Cats & Dogs go to the UK in Plane Cabin?
- DEFRA UK Pet Travel Scheme Rules
- Can you Take Dogs to the UK in the Plane Hold?
- Airlines that Take Dogs to the UK in the Hold
- Flying from the EU to the UK with Snub-Nosed Cat & Dog Breeds
- UK DEFRA Authorised Airports for Pet Arrivals
- Other EU to UK Pet Travel Options
- Related Pages
Can Cats & Dogs go to the UK in Plane Cabin?
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) doesn’t permit dogs or cats, except registered Assistance & Service Dogs, to fly to England in the cabin of a commercial airline.
While Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have some separate devolved powers for pet travel, their schemes are aligned with DEFRA. Both Scotland and Wales manage animal welfare through the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which works on behalf of DEFRA. In Northern Ireland, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is responsible for managing these issues locally.
The Pet Travel Scheme legislation in all four countries in the UK doesn’t allow for cats, dogs or other animals to be imported to the UK in the cabin of a commercial flight.
The UK isn’t alone with this rule, as a few other worldwide destinations don’t permit pets to enter in the aircraft cabin.
DEFRA UK Pet Travel Scheme Rules
However, to complicate matters further…..the four countries in the United Kingdom (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) have different pet travel rules!
Following Brexit on 1 January 2021, the UK Pet Travel Scheme was split to form separate rules for Great Britain (Scotland, England & Wales), and Northern Ireland (NI). NI shares a border with Ireland, and Ireland is a member of the EU, whereas NI is part of the UK, and therefore no longer a member of the EU after Brexit.
So, in order to avoid a hard border between NI and Ireland, NI remains subject to the rules of the EU Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). On the other hand, Scotland, England and Wales, as members of Great Britain, have a different set of rules to NI and the EU.
You can click the links to view the Pet Travel Scheme requirements for each of the four countries in the UK.
However, be aware that on 6 September 2021, the UK Department of Environment, Forestry & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that checks on all pet dogs, cats and ferrets travelling from NI to GB is suspended indefinitely while negotiations between the UK government and EU continue.
Subsequently, at the moment, you don’t need any pet travel documentation to take your cat, dog or ferret between NI and GB, as NI reciprocated these terms with the rest of the UK on 15 September 2021.
Can you Take Dogs to the UK in the Plane Hold?
You can only take a pet cat or dog to the UK in the hold of a commercial plane. Only Assistance & Service Dogs can be taken in the passenger cabin with you. w
To fly with a cat, dog or ferret in the hold on a commercial plane, your pet travel options from the EU to the UK are:
- Option 1
Lease a private jet to fly your pet in the cabin
- Option 2
Travel with your pet in the hold on a commercial flight
- Option 3
Don’t fly, take a pet friendly ferry or train instead
Option 1 is a no go for most of us mere mortals! So, Option 2 it is if you really want to fly to the UK with your cat, dog or ferret.
When flying your pet to the UK from continental Europe in the hold, your cat or dog will travel as manifest cargo, rather than checked baggage. This means that the airline you’ve selected for your own flight will point you in the direction of their approved cargo company.
The reservation for your pet, and all travel arrangements will be made through the cargo company. For entering the UK, the pet cargo courier used by most airlines is IAG Cargo, who will safely transport your cat or dog to and from the aircraft.
But, when making arrangements with a pet cargo company, be aware that it isn’t always possible for your cat or dog to travel on the same flight as you to the UK. You may therefore need to travel on a different day from your pet.
Airlines that Take Dogs to the UK in the Hold
Some of the airlines that fly from mainland Europe to the UK with pets in the hold, on DEFRA approved routes, are:
- Aegean Airlines
- Air France
- Air Malta
- Austrian Airlines
- British Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- Czech Airlines
- Egypt Air
- Swiss International Airlines (SWISS)
- Turkish Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
While these airlines are able to accept pets for travel in the hold to the UK, they may not necessarily offer a route to the closest DEFRA Pet Travel Scheme approved airport. So, you’ll also have to decide which of the airports is better for you logistically, and if the airline offers a flight from where you’re travelling in the EU to your UK destination.
No doubt, flying with pets in the EU is much easier than flying back to the UK!
Flying from the EU to the UK with Snub-Nosed Cat & Dog Breeds
While you can fly cats and dogs to the UK from the EU in the hold, you’ll face a conundrum if you’re travelling with a snub-nosed (brachycephalic) cat or dog breed. The term brachycephalic comes from the Greek words meaning short and head.
Ethical airlines don’t allow brachycephalic cat and dog breeds to fly in the hold of the aircraft. This is due to the possibility of severe respiratory issues that they may encounter when flying in the ventilated, temperature controlled climate in the hold.
Therefore, if you’re planning to fly from the EU to the UK with one of these cat or dog breeds, you can’t take them in the aircraft cabin with you, as the UK doesn’t allow pets to arrive in the cabin. In addition, you are unable to travel with a snub-nosed cat or dog in the hold, so there aren’t any options for flying into the UK with a snub nosed cat or dog from the EU.
Note that some airlines allow snub nosed cats and dogs to fly in the hold as cargo. However, this is not recommended, it really isn’t worth your pet’s health, or life.
Instead of flying, check out other options to take a snub nosed cat or dog to the UK from the EU, such as a pet friendly ferry or Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. In particular, Brittany Ferries offers numerous pet friendly crossings between the UK, France and Spain.
UK DEFRA Authorised Airports for Pet Arrivals
Some smaller UK airports hold DEFRA Pet Travel Scheme authorisation for receiving pets. However, the majority of pet flight routes are to one of five pet friendly airports in Scotland and England.
Upon landing, pets arriving in the UK in the plane cargo hold must be cleared at the Airport Pet Reception Centre before being permitted to leave. You can click on the links below to read about the Pet Reception Centre at each of the DEFRA approved UK airports:
There’s a full list of airlines and entry points for pets arriving in the UK in the hold on the DEFRA website.
Other EU to UK Pet Travel Options
Pet friendly ferries offer various routes between continental Europe and the UK. For example, you can:
- travel in comfort in a pet friendly cabin with Brittany Ferries from Santander or Bilbao to Portsmouth
- sail as a foot passenger with your dog on the DFDS Seaways Amsterdam to Newcastle route
- opt for a pet kennel to cross from Calais to Dover with P&O Ferries
Apart from the DFDS Seaways route, you’ll need a car to sail with your pet. If you don’t have access to a vehicle to travel from the EU to the UK, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle may be your best option. You can book transport to take you aboard the shuttle train with Folkestone Taxis.
Whichever way you travel, remember the two golden rules:
- Always protect your pet when you travel to a foreign destination
- Leave a review for your pet adventure on our website!
You can also check out pet travel scheme rules for global pet friendly destinations.