Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Flying... with your dog

At Larnaca Airport
We just began out Cretan holiday!!

The flight was fine, but the whole experience is a bit traumatic for all of us. As we had flown before, we had already done some research about how to arrange it. Here is a list:

  • Check with the airlines whether they accept animals. The budget ones (EasyJet, Ryanair) tend not to carry animals at all. Hopefully this will change, it's probably worth checking. If you can't find the information on their websites, just ring up and ask

  • Check what requirements the particular airline has. Most request that you provide a cage for your dog. It is supposed to be large enough so the dog can stand up, and turn around. It should have a very secure door. These can be bought from most pet shops, or you could search online for discounts. For long journeys, it is essential to provide access to water

  • We have flown twice with Cyprus Airways. They require that you phone to check whether they can accept pets on the dates you want to fly. When we flew at Christmas, I was told that we couldn't fly on a particular day as some cats had already booked tickets for that day! Try to arrange as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment

  • Within Europe, there are not too many regulations:
  1. Your dog must have a microchip for identification
  2. You also need a European passport for your dog (available from your vet)
  3. Your dog must have up to date vaccination - for rabies 
  4. Up to date tapeworm treatment
  5. A stamp from your vet to certify that your dog is fit to travel
  • I would recommend that you organise the microchip and passport some days before you plan to travel. Give yourself time 

  • If you are an overly anxious parent, as I am, it may be worth going to the vet a week prior to travel anyway, to tell them your travel plans, and to arrange an appointment for the final check up - just to make sure they have time to see you, and there is nothing you have forgotten

  • Go to your vet 2 days before flying so they can stamp your dog's passport to show they have been examined and are fit to fly. Also to take the pills against tapeworm.
You are ready to fly...

Airlines charge different amounts for transportation of animals. Again, check with the airline before you book. 

Sage's carrier cost 140 Euros from a pet shop. I am sure I could have shopped around for a bargain online, but I was pushed for time. Smaller carriers, for smaller dogs, inevitably cost less. The bottom half of her carrier serves as a bed when we are not traveling. This helps her to feel familiar and safe when it comes time to travel.

Sage had the microchip implanted as a deal from the animal welfare charity when she was neutered. A quick search online just now showed that prices vary from about 30-50 Euros - you could check with your local animal welfare group to see whether you can get it done more cheaply/for free. 

In Crete, I paid 20 Euros for the pet passport, and for the vet to examine Sage and validate the passport. The second time we flew, from Cyprus, I paid 30 Euros just for the check up and tapeworm treatment. These prices depend on the charges of your vet.

Finally, the big one, when we flew from Crete to Cyprus at Christmas, Cyprus Airways were charging by the kilo for the transportation of animals. The fees were 7.50 Euros per kilo. Sage weighed in at 30 kilos, plus the weight of the carrier - we paid 280 Euros (one way!!) They have since changed the pricing system, now you pay a set fee if your dog is up to 20 kilos, another fee up to 30 kilos etc. It cost 160 Euros, one way, for Sage and the carrier. 

Again, I expect every airport has a different procedure, and every airline a different system for booking, pricing, paying etc. Our journey was quite straight forward:

  • We turned up early to the airport, with Sage already in her carrier, and went straight to the check in desk. They re-directed us to a counter that was for people with special travel requirements. 
  • We tried to weigh her on the suitcase belt, but the carrier was too big. The staff of the airline just asked us her weight and charged us accordingly. Stricter airlines may make you weigh the animal in front of them.
  • I went to pay at the desk for excess luggage charges (luggage handler for several airlines). 
  • We went outside to wait, so as not to check our 'special luggage' earlier than necessary. We made sure she had a drink of water.
  • When it was time, we went to the area where you check oversized luggage. Here we had to take her out of the carrier, so they could scan the carrier. I walked through security with her on the lead. Then I got her back into the carrier (by means of a couple of treats - useful to have with you if your dog is as greedy as mine), and then had to leave her waiting on a conveyer belt to be carried out to the plane.
I then went through security as normal, and waited to find her on the other side....

The worst part of all of this was at Heraklion airport, when we arrived in Crete. I suppose this is a hazard of flying in the summer months. There were too many flights landing, chaos in the airport, people pushing and shoving for their luggage, and nobody to ask where to collect our dog. I admit I got in a bit of a panic. There was nobody at the luggage handling desk, and nobody seemed to know anything. Finally, as our luggage started to arrive on the belt, I heard a little bark somewhere close by through the crowd, and she was sitting there in her carrier, looking relieved to see me. You don't need to know that I cried just a little, out of relief!

A final note....

For Sage's first flight, we gave her sedatives. It was recommended by the vet, and I thought it would be a good idea. It wasn't. It was horrible. I have since read that this is not generally recommended as the dog is not able to balance during the flight as the plane moves around. It may also lead to respiratory and cardiovascular problems due to the increased pressure. I suppose if your dog is particularly anxious, and it is necessary to fly, consult your vet to see if there are alternatives to sedatives that your dog could take. For Sage, considering it was a short flight (1 hour 15 minutes), I decided not to sedate her for her second flight. It may  have been more traumatic, I don't know, but she certainly recovered from it MUCH more quickly, and was her old self within minutes, instead of the 2 days she took to recover the 
previous time. For more information on sedating animals for transport, see: 

And so here we are, ready to start exploring, and blogging about all our experiences from our holidays in Crete

On the beach at Ammoudara

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