Wednesday,  July 8, 2020  2:38 am

Everything you need to know before you fly with your pet

Everything you need to know before you fly with your pet
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

Maybe you're leaving the country.

Maybe you accepted a job offer halfway across the world.

READ MORE: What you need to know about flying with your pet

Or, maybe, you just really want to bring your fur baby on vacation with you. Afterall, tons of hotels around the world are dog-friendly, or have doggy daycare services in place. Cats are always welcome, too!

Whatever your reasons, travelling with a pet can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be, so long as you're aware of the rules, regulations, and limitations of your chosen air carrier. We've compiled a comprehensive guide that outlines what to expect when bringing your pet on board Air Canada, Air Transat, and WestJet

At this time, Sunwing only accepts service animals

Air Canada

The cargo hold isn’t for everyone. Sometimes, the idea of putting your furry friend where the bags go can be stressful for you and your pet.

Air Canada lets small cats and dogs ride up front in the cabin, so long as they can stand, sit, and lie down in front of you for takeoff and landing. Small dogs and cats are welcome aboard Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, and Air Canada Express flights operated by Jazz, Sky Regional, Air Georgian or Exploits Valley Air.

It’s important to remember that your pet can’t fly with you if you:

  • Are an unaccompanied minor
  • Are seated in an exit or bulkhead row
  • Require the use of a medical device that needs to be stowed underneath the seat
  • Are travelling in Premium Economy cabin

Your pet will also count as one “personal item,” so if you’re only bringing a carry-on, and your pet has accessories, like a leash, food, or bowls, you’ll have to remember to save some space.

Also, remember to select a seat that isn’t located in either the exit or bulkhead row, or you’ll likely be denied boarding with your furry companion.

While Air Canada doesn’t specify if only cats or dogs are considered pets, their website does state that in the case of a dog or a cat, the animal must be at least 12 weeks old and fully weaned. It also has to stay in the carrier the entire flight, so that means no taking him or her out mid-air to sit in your lap.

Other important information to know if your pet is flying with Air Canada:

  • Maximum carrier size: 292 cm (115 in) in linear dimensions
  • Maximum weight: Up to 45 kg (100 lb) (pet and kennel combined)
  • Cost for one-way: Within Canada and Canada/U.S.(except Hawaii)
    $105.00 - $120.75 CAD/USD; International ($270.00 - $318.60 CAD/USD

As far as service animals go, Air Canada requires you to present an identification card or other written document, carry tags or a harness for your animal, or provide credible verbal assurance.

In order to fly with Air Canada, your pet's carrier must fit beneath the seat in front of you.

Air Transat

The only pets allowed to fly with Air Transat are dogs and cats — sorry, no hamsters, miniature pigs, turkeys, or pet snakes!

Pets are welcome in both the checked baggage hold and the cabin, so long as requirements are met and adhered to.

The following fees are in place for travellers wishing to transport their pets in the checked baggage hold:

  • To and from Europe: CAD $275 each way per animal.
  • To and from South/U.S.: CAD $150 each way per animal.
  • Domestic flights within Canada: CAD $75 each way per animal

According to Air Transat’s website, once you arrive in Canada, a CAD $30 fee (plus tax, per animal) will be required for inspection by Agriculture Canada. Arrivals from the U.S. are exempt.

For travellers who opt to bring their pets into the cabin, the following fees apply:

  • To and from Europe: CAD $90 each way per animal.
  • To and from South/U.S.: CAD $50 each way per animal.
  • Domestic flights within Canada: CAD $50 each way per animal

Just like with the checked baggage policy, upon arrival in Canada, travellers will have to pay a CAD $30 fee (plus tax, per animal) for inspection by Agriculture Canada. Arrivals from the U.S. are exempt.

It’s also important to note that outside of Canada, in both cases, amounts can vary, and the traveller will be charged in local currency.

For pets travelling inside the cabin, owners must ensure that the carrier can fit under the seat in front of them, and therefore, the dimensions exceed 21.5 x 40 x 45 cm (8.5 x 16 x 17.5 in).

The carrier must be leak-proof, well ventilated and soft-sided. A hard-sided carrier or any other type of bag is not permitted.

Sorry, no matter how creative you get, no other type of bag, like a camera bag, is permitted to carry your furry friend.

Although Air Transat allows dogs in both the cabin and the checked baggage hold, certain breeds will not be permitted on flight because they’re not allowed in some countries or regions:

  • Mastiffs: All breeds including; Argentine (Dogo Argentino), Bandog (Bandogge), South African (Boerboel), Brazilian (Fila Brasileiro), Italian (Cane Corso, Neapolitan), Canary Mastiff (Presa Canario), Japanese Mastiff (Tosa Inu)
  • Pit Bulls: all breeds, including American Bully, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Akita (Akita Inu)
  • Caucasian Ovcharka (Caucasian Shepherd Dog)
  • Karabash Dog (Kangal/Anatolian Shepherd Dog)
  • Rottweiler
  • Wolf-dog hybrids
  • Doberman Pinscher

The following breeds are exempt from the above restriction and will be accepted for transport:

  • All other Mastiff breeds, not specified above, such as Bull Mastiffs and French Mastiffs (Dogue de Bordeaux)

Not just the big breeds: certain small breeds, like the Miniature Pinscher, are not allowed on board Air Transat.


Your fur babies can fly in the cabin, checked, or in the cargo hold on their own.

There are a few rules to keep in mind:

  • Pets are not permitted on flights operated by WestJet’s code-share and interline partners. WestJet is also unable to accept pets on flights booked through one of its partners.
  • Pets that are younger than eight weeks old will not be accepted for transport.
  • Your pet always has to be stored in its container under the seat ; if you take him/her out for some mid-air pets, you could be banned from travelling on WestJet ever again!
  • Unaccompanied minors can’t travel with pets
  • Pets younger than eight weeks will not be accepted

Select destinations that WestJet flies to do not allow pets in the cabin or the checked cargo department.

Dogs and cats are not accepted on flights to, from or through Barbados, Hawaii, Ireland, Jamaica or the United Kingdom in carry-on or checked kennel.

At this time, WestJet also states that it’s not accepting any checked pets on the new 787 Dreamliner, but this could change once animal safety assets have been completed.

For travellers wishing to bring their pet in the cabin, the following fees apply:

  • Travel within/between Canada and the U.S. ($50 - $59 CAD/USD)
  • Travel between Canada/U.S. and all destinations outside the U.S. ($100 - $118 CAD/USD)

For travellers wishing to check their pet, the following fees apply:

  • Travel within/between Canada and the U.S. ($100 – $118 CAD/USD)
  • Travel between Canada/U.S. and all destinations outside the U.S. ($200 - $236 CAD/USD)

WestJet is currently the only Canadian airline that accepts other species outside of dogs and cats as pets! It’s important to note that pet birds of any kind cannot fly (pardon the pun) to the Dominican Republic.

Certain destinations are too hot, or too cold for your pet to fly comfortably.

WestJet has also posted a series of blackout dates that affect many popular destinations, so always make sure bringing your pet doesn’t conflict with the dates you selected. Mostly, this is due to select periods when specific routes are popular, and there simply isn’t room in the cargo hold.

It’s also worth mentioning that not all hotels booked under a WestJet Vacations package will accept pets, so if you plan on bringing your pet on vacation, it’s a good idea to call the hotel first.

WestJet is also very lenient when it comes to what counts as an emotional support animal, as Lauren Stewart, spokesperson for WestJet notes, the service isn't just limited to dogs and cats.

Other animals (except for the restricted animals listed below) may be accepted as an emotional support animal on a case-by-case basis. WestJet does not permit the following restricted animals as emotional support animals, as they pose a safety and/or public health concern:

  • Amphibians
  • Animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor
  • Animals with tusks, horns, or hooves
  • Ferrets
  • Goats
  • Hedgehogs
  • Insects
  • Non-household birds (birds of prey, farm poultry, game birds, waterfowl)
  • Reptiles
  • Rodents
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Sugar gliders

Sorry, no matter how cute the outfit is, goats don't count as emotional support animals aboard WestJet!

Tips for your pet's takeoff

Above all else, make sure your pet is healthy and comfortable, whether it’s a quick stop from Toronto to Montreal, or an eight-hour red-eye to the UK.

The following tips will make sure your furry friend is ready for takeoff:

  • Ensure all vaccinations are up to date, or make an appointment with your vet to ensure your pet is healthy enough to fly. Certain short-nosed dog breeds, like the pug or the bulldog can have respiratory problems on a regular basis, and flying has the potential to jeopardize that further.
  • Place a familiar toy or blanket in the carrier so your pet is comfortable.
  • Depending on the length of the flight, bring a snack for your pet. If providing water, make sure it can’t spill out of the carrier in the cabin or baggage hold.

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