Travel by air
The following information has been written to aid guide and assistance dog owners wishing to travel with their dogs by air. It summarises the procedures that should be taken to successfully fly with a guide or assistance dog. However, this page is general guidance, and for a comprehensive answer to specific questions, you should contact the airline you are flying with, airport you are leaving or re-entering the UK from, or you should contact the Civil Aviation Authority. You should also read and familiarise yourself with the section on the welfare considerations page.
As with all more complex journeys, you should first consider if it is appropriate to undertake the journey with your dog. If you are not sure, you should contact your local Guide Dogs Mobility Team or the assistance dog organisation who trained your dog for advice.
You should inform the airline, tour operator or booking agent booking the flight that you intend to fly with a guide or assistance dog. This should ideally be done at least 48 hours before flying, although every reasonable effort should be made by the airline to accommodate a guide or assistance dog if less notice is unavoidable.
It is also advisable that you contact the airport and airline you are flying with directly, even if booked through a third party, to ensure that everything is put in place to support you and your guide or assistance dog on the day of travel.
Airlines are entitled to ask for evidence that a guide or assistance dog is trained by, what is known as, a recognised training organisation. A list of qualifying training organisations can be found on the International Guide Dogs Federation (IGDF) or Assistance Dogs International (ADI) websites.
Airlines may accept your Guide Dogs or assistance dog ID book as pre-flight booking documentary evidence that your dog is trained by a recognised training organisation, with the ID tag on the dog’s collar, harness or jacket, helping to confirm the dog’s status as being trained by a recognised organisation. Documentation evidence can also be supplied by a Guide Dogs Mobility Team, or through the assistance dog organisation who trained your dog.
As a part of the booking process, the booking agent or airline should agree with you where the Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) agent is to meet you within the airport boundary, to escort you through the airport and onto the aircraft. This can be any agreed point in the airport, railway terminus, car park, taxi drop off, bus station or terminal building.
Before passing through security and departures, you should be offered the opportunity, and assisted by the PRM agent, to take your dog to spend (relieve itself) at the designated spending facility. The same agent may also run through a checklist when checking-in, to ensure that you have the appropriate PETS passport or other paperwork for your dog to leave and re-enter the country.
You should then be escorted through security, supported in departures and then escorted through to the gate and onto the aircraft. You and your dog should be boarded on the aircraft first, along with other PRM passengers, to ensure you are comfortably seated before other passengers embark.
Unlike pet dogs, recognised guide and assistance dogs are permitted to travel with their owners in the cabin of the aircraft with UK, European and most international air carriers, who will provide floor space in an adjoining seat or across the bulkhead, usually at no additional charge to guide and assistance dog owners. However, you should check with your airline as some will provide additional floor space at a reduced cost.
Dependent on the carrier you fly with, your dog may be provided with floor space in the seat next to you, however some airlines will expect your dog to lay across your feet in the bulkhead row. Both scenarios are possible, so it is worth considering, based on the length of journey, or the size of your dog, which airline offers you and your dog the best option.
You are required to provide a car harness to secure your dog to a seat belt or seat stanchion, to ensure your dog’s safety on take-off, landing and at times when the seatbelt sign is illuminated. A car harness, obtainable from pet shops or vet practices, is advisable for this purpose.
It is also worth thinking about water for your dog during a flight. Unfortunately this is restricted through airport security (please check before travel what you are permitted to take through security), however, water can be bought in the departure area of the airport or on the aircraft, and may be provided free of charge by aircraft cabin staff. Ice cubes are sometimes an alternative to water, which can usually be provided by cabin staff, and reduce the risk of spillages.
If you are looking to undertake long-haul flights with your dog, on journeys over three hours, you may wish to consider additional provision for your dog, details of which are outlined in the Welfare considerations page.
You will need to check with your airline or booking agent, about the procedures for processing your dog, at your destination airport, on entry to that country or prior to your return journey to the UK, as these may be different to the UK in terms of processes and the paperwork required.
On returning to the UK, you will be met by a member of PRM or Animal Health staff on the aircraft or inside the terminal building, to go through PETS checks before allowing your dog to re-enter the UK. Information about the Pets Travel Scheme and what is required on return to the UK can be found on the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) page of this website.
If requested, the PRM agent should then accompany you through Border Control, baggage reclaim and on to an agreed point in the airport boundary where you are being met, or are undertaking your onward journey.