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3 Most Pet-Friendly Airlines in Australia (2023 Update)

Bynewsmagzines

Jun 17, 2023
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cat looking at the airplane window

Do you live in Australia and are considering traveling via air with your pet? If so, it’s important to be familiar with the various Australian airlines and their rules regarding flying with your pets.

Despite high rates of pet ownership, Australia has yet to welcome dogs and cats into passenger cabins. Until last year, all animals except for service animals were strictly prohibited from accompanying passengers in the cabin on flights. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) changed the rules in December 2021, allowing individual airlines to determine their own pet policies.

However, as of December 2022, all airlines staunchly prohibit pets in the cabin, with the exception of service dogs. Three airlines allow you to fly your pet as cargo, but the process has changed temporarily due to COVID-19 restrictions. Let’s look into the specific details of flying with your pet in Australia.

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A Quick Look at The Best Pet-Friendly Airlines (2023 Update)

Airline Animals Allowed Domestic or International Size Restrictions How To Book
Qantas Cabin: Service dog only
Cargo: Cats and dogs, other animals via Qantas Freight
Limited routes for international; single sector only for domestic Varies according to route Call a pet travel specialist; online booking suspended
Virgin Australia Cabin: Service dog only
Cargo: Cats and dogs
Domestic flights only Under 65 kilograms or 140 pounds. Temporary Covid-19 restrictions require booking through a Commercial Pet Transport Company
Regional Express (REX) Cabin: Service dog only
Cargo: Cats and dogs, except dangerous and brachycephalic breeds
Select domestic flights only Under 32 kilograms or 70 pounds. Pets under 32 kilograms will be considered checked baggage for an extra fee.

The 3 Most Pet-Friendly Airlines in Australia

1. Qantas

Qantas logo

🐶🐱 Animals Allowed: Cats and dogs through Qantas; other animals through Qantas Freight
✈️ Booking Policy: Call to book through a pet travel specialist. Online booking temporarily suspended.

Qantas is currently the only airline in Australia that allows you to travel with your pet on an international flight. Not all routes accept pets though, so you’ll need to research your travel destination before you go. Qantas Freight coordinates pet transport for several other airlines as well, including REX.

While you were once able to book your pet’s flight online, COVID-19 restrictions resulted in a temporary change of policy which requires you to call their pet travel specialists in order to book their flight. If you’re flying domestic, your pet may only come if it’s a single sector flight. Like all airlines in Australia in 2022, Qantas only allows service animals to fly in the cabin. All other animals will be relegated to the cargo hold.

  • Allows international travel on select routes
  • Most domestic routes allow pets as long as you book a single sector flight
  • Qantas Freight allows some exotic pets
  • Online booking temporarily suspended

2. Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia logo

🐶🐱 Animals Allowed: Cats and dogs only
✈️ Booking Policy: Book through a Commercial Pet Transport Company

Prior to the pandemic, pets could fly in the cargo hold on your domestic flight. However, current restrictions dictate that animals must be conveyed through a Commercial Pet Transport Company instead of being transported by Virgin Airlines directly. A pet transport company typically picks up your pet from your home and ships them directly to your location.

Qantas Freight is an exception to the rule, as this airline can coordinate with other airlines such as Virgin to accommodate pet travel. This policy was implemented in order for pets to be able to be reunited with their owners immediately despite quarantine requirements. As of 2022, Virgin Airlines only allows dogs under 65 kilograms on domestic flights. There are no international travel provisions, or allowances for exotic pets.

  • Allows cats and dogs under 65 kilograms
  • Most domestic flights accept pets
  • Pet flights must be arranged through a third-party company due to current restrictions

3. Regional Express (REX)

Regional Express logo

🐶🐱 Animals Allowed: Cats and dogs, as long as they aren’t deemed dangerous or Brachycephalic breeds.
✈️ Booking Policy: Book through Qantas Freight or Dogtainers at least 72 hours before the flight.

Instead of creating a separate booking for your pet, REX considers pets as checked baggage as long as they’re under 30 kilograms. The price is determined by weight and starts at $5.50 per kilogram, which is fairly straightforward to calculate in advance.  Under temporary travel restrictions, REX asks their customers to book their pet’s flight through Qantas Freight or Dogtainers with at least 72 hours’ notice before their flight.

Only dogs and cats are allowed to fly Regional Express. However, not every canine and feline can come aboard. In addition to certain breeds that every Australian airline excludes, REX will also not allow Brachycephalic breeds such as Shih Tzus or Pugs on their flights. You are also somewhat limited on the travel destination, as REX only allows pets on select domestic flights.

  • REX considers smalls dogs and cats as checked baggage for an extra fee
  • Several popular breeds are excluded from flying
  • Currently books through Qantas Freight or Dogtainers
  • Select domestic flights only

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Common Airline Exclusions

As of December 2022, only certified service animals are allowed to accompany passengers in airplane cabins. Even though the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) changed their stance to allow airlines to make their own rules about pet policies, most airlines have expressed hesitancy about letting pets ride with human travelers.

Some possible reasons for the hesitancy include concerns about dealing with other customer’s pet allergies, as well as specific airport restrictions about animals in the building. It appears that Qantas and Jetstar are in no hurry to change their minds on the matter. Virgin Australia has hinted that they’re trying to figure out how to accommodate pets in the future. The decisions are weighty, as dog-owners will likely choose Virgin over Qantas if they amend the rules while people who don’t feel comfortable with animals at all will likely ride Jetstar.

Dog Breeds That Are Excluded

Regardless of the recent governmental policy change, certain dogs aren’t allowed to fly on any Australian airline. These breeds have been deemed dangerous and include:

  • Fila Brasileiro
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • American Pit Bull and other Pit Bull Breeds
  • Perro de Presa Canario

All of these dogs are banned from being imported into the country and are not allowed to fly within the country if they’re already there. Staffordshire Terriers and brachycephalic breeds may face certain additional restrictions depending on the airline. For example, Qantas and Virgin requires a pet travel specialist to always book any brachycephalic breed, regardless of current Covid-19 restrictions. REX flatly prohibits brachycephalic breeds on their planes at all due to their inherently greater health risk.

dog inside airplane
Image Credit; Svitlana Hulko, Shutterstock

Flying Safely with Your Pets: Know Before You Go

Booking

When flying with your pet, you’ll want to book as far in advance as you possibly can. Most airlines only allow a limited number of animals on flights, so you’ll want to secure your spot before they run out. Qantas also requires you to book your animal’s flight at least 72 hours prior to take off.

Medical Records

All airlines require basic documentation such as rabies certificates, but some may require more medical records and health clearances from a vet, especially if your animal is considered a high-risk brachycephalic breed. Of course, all service animals must be certified to be allowed in passenger cabins, and not all airlines consider emotional support animals as service animals.

Cost

The price of flying with your pet varies greatly but count on spending as much on your pet’s flight as you will on your own ticket. The general estimate for flying with a pet in Australia ranges between $350-$700, but the actual price is determined by the weight and breed of your pet, as well as the specific airline’s rules.

Your Pet’s Comfort

Only you can truly determine if your pet is deemed safe for travel. Even if your veterinarian has given you the all-clear, you might not want to risk flying an extremely anxious, elderly, or sick pet. Some people chose to sedate their pet in order to make their flight a more relaxing experience, but most airlines advise against this as sedation can cause breathing problems.

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Conclusion

Currently, three Australian airlines allow your pet to take to the skies. Qantas allows pets on select international routes, while Virgin Australia and Regional Express (REX) offer select domestic flights only. Unfortunately, pets aren’t allowed in the passenger cabins unless they are certified service animals , but recent policy alterations dictate that this could change in the near future.


Featured Image Credit: Photo Spirit, Shutterstock

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