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5 Most Pet-Friendly Airlines In Canada (2023 Update)

Bynewsmagzines

Jun 17, 2023
cat in a carrier bag ready to board an airplane

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cat in a carrier bag ready to board an airplane

Air travel is stressful. So stressful, in fact, that over half of U.S. adults that have recently flown find the entire air travel process more nerve-wracking than going to work—and that’s under normal circumstances. So imagine how much more stressful the process is when you fly with your pet and become tightly restricted to airline pet policies. Each airline has its own unique set of rules and procedures that dictate what pets can fly, when they can fly, and how they can fly.

If you’re a Canadian looking to fly with your pet soon, let us help you deal with some of those stressors before they can begin. Below you’ll find our comprehensive overview of the five most pet-friendly airlines flying in Canada today.

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

Airline Animals Allowed Price (One-way) Size Restrictions Age Requirements Restrictions
Air Canada Cabin: Small cats & dogs
Checked Baggage: Cats & dogsCargo: Most live animals
Cabin: Within Canada: $50

International: $100

Checked Baggage: Within Canada: $105–$120.75

International: $270–$318.60

Cargo: Within Canada: $215–$625

Transborder: $245–$650

Cabin: Carrier must fit under the seat in front of you

Checked Baggage: Up to 100 lbs (pet and kennel combined)

Cargo: 220 lbs +

Must be at least 12 weeks old to travel in the cabin and baggage compartments.

 

Kittens and puppies must be 10 weeks old to travel via cargo.

Short/snub-nosed breeds of cats and dogs cannot travel in baggage & cargo compartments.

 

“Strong” dog breeds must be in specific kennels.

 

Cold-blooded animals are not accepted as cargo on some aircraft.

WestJet Cabin: Birds, cats, dogs, rabbits
Checked Baggage: Birds, cats, chinchillas, dogs, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, rabbitsCargo: Must contact WestJet Cargo
Cabin: Within Canada & the U.S.: $50–$59

International: $100–$118
Checked Baggage: Within Canada and the U.S.: $100–$118

International: $200–$236

Cargo: Must contact WestJet Cargo for a quote

Cabin: Carrier must fit under the seat in front of you

Checked Baggage: Up to 100 lbs (pet and kennel combined)

Cargo: Must contact WestJet Cargo

Must be older than eight weeks to travel in the cabin and baggage compartments.

 

Animals between 8 to 12 weeks need health records for cargo travel.

WestJet recommends consulting your vet before traveling.
Air Transat Cabin: Cats, dogs
Checked Baggage: Cats, dogsCargo: Must contact Air Transat Cargo
Cabin: Within Canada & the U.S.: $50

International: $100

Checked Baggage: Within Canada & the U.S.: $100

International: $275

 

Cargo: Must contact Air Transat Cargo

 

Fees will go up if you pay the fees at the airport vs prepaying

Cabin: Up to 22 lbs (pet and carrier combined)

 

Checked Baggage: Up to 99 lbs (pet and kennel combined)

 

Cargo: Must contact Air Transat Cargo

Must be at least 12 weeks old. Some dog breeds are not transportable.

 

Snub-nosed dog and cat owners must have a specific type of carrier.

 

Snub-nosed pet owners must sign a liability form to put pets.

Flair Airlines Cabin: Small cats & dogs
Checked Baggage: N/ACargo: N/A
Cabin: Within Canada & the U.S.: $79 if paying online, $99 if paying at the airport

International: Pets not accepted

Checked Baggage: N/A

Cargo: N/A

Cabin: Up to 23 lbs (pet and carrier combined)

Checked Baggage: N/A

Cargo: N/A

Must be at least 12 weeks old. None explicitly stated on their website.
Porter Airlines Cabin: Small cats & dogs
Checked Baggage: N/ACargo: N/A
Cabin: Within Canada & the U.S.: $50–$57.50

International: N/A

Checked Baggage: N/A

Cargo: N/A

Cabin: Up to 20 lbs (pet and carrier combined)

Checked Baggage: N/A

Cargo: N/A

Not explicitly stated on their website. Aggressive or distressed pets may be denied travel.

The 5 Most Pet-Friendly Airlines

1. Air Canada

Air Canada logo

🐶🐱 Animals Allowed: Cats, dogs, and most live animals (in cargo)
💲 Price (One-way): $50–$650
✈️ Max. number of pets in cabin: 2–4

Air Canada is Canada’s best pet-friendly airline. They allow pets to fly in the cabin, baggage compartment, and also via Air Canada Cargo.

Small dogs and cats are permitted to travel in the cabin, provided their carrier fits under the seat ahead of you. One cat or dog is allowed in the cabin per passenger.

Larger cats and dogs can travel via checked baggage so long as the combined weight of the pet and kennel does not exceed 100 pounds. You can travel with two pets in the same kennel in checked baggage, but you’ll be charged separately. Pets are not accepted in the cabin or the baggage area on flights traveling to places like Hawaii, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand.

Air Canada Cargo can arrange the safe transport of your pet via cargo for animals that do not fit within these weight limits.

The airline has policies that may exclude your pet depending on its breed. For example, it does not allow certain snub-nosed or brachycephalic breeds to travel in the cargo hold or as checked baggage. These breeds are prone to respiratory problems and cannot safely travel unless they are in the cabin. Strong dog breeds and crosses between these breeds older than six months must be transported via a specially reinforced kennel in the baggage compartment.

There are other restrictions to be aware of. For example, not all Air Canada’s aircraft have baggage compartments with proper ventilation and temperature control. This may mean your pet cannot be safely accommodated during days that exceed 29.5°C. In the same vein, cats and dogs may not be able to travel in the baggage compartment of specific aircraft between November 1 and March 31 or any other time of the year when temperatures are 0 °C or below.

  • Accommodates many different animal species
  • Baggage compartment can accommodate two pets in the same kennel
  • Allows up to four pets in the cabin
  • Three options for pet transporting
  • Pets are not allowed on flights to Hawaii
  • Expensive

2. WestJet

WestJet logo

🐶🐱 Animals Allowed: Birds, cats, dogs, rabbits
💲 Price (One-way): $50–$236
✈️ Max. number of pets in cabin: Varies

WestJet, Canada’s other major airline, provides another great way to transport your pet. They differ from the other airlines as they allow certain species of birds and other small critters like rabbits in the cabin. Unfortunately, birds cannot be imported into the Dominican Republic, and endangered birds are not to be exported from Mexico. In addition to the pets mentioned above, WestJet also allows chinchillas, guinea pigs, and hedgehogs to travel in the checked baggage hold.

As with Air Canada, there are certain times of year and events that may mean your pet cannot be transported. WestJet implements holiday restrictions and will limit the space in their checked baggage area during periods of heavy holiday travel. You cannot transport an animal as checked baggage to specific destinations like Aruba, Mexico, Belize, or Hawaii at any time of the year. Your pet cannot travel via the cargo hold to certain hot weather destinations between May 15 and October 31. Pets will not be accepted in periods of extreme weather when the actual or forecasted temperatures are above 29.4°C or below 7.2°C (though they may accept an acclimation certificate for pets acclimated to temperatures below 7.2°C).

Like Air Canada, WestJet can ship your pet via WestJet Cargo, but many restrictions exist. For example, not every city served by WestJet has a cargo facility, and the flights must be nonstop. Therefore, you must reach out to WestJet directly to receive a quote for shipping your pet as cargo.

  • Reasonable rates
  • Allows rabbits and birds in the cabin
  • Accepts exotic species in the baggage area
  • Cannot get a quote for cargo shipping costs online
  • Certain flights to specific destinations are not pet-friendly

3. Air Transat

Air Transat logo

🐶🐱 Animals Allowed: Cats, dogs
💲 Price (One-way): $50–$275
✈️ Max. number of pets in cabin: Varies

Air Transat is a Quebec-based airline and the third-largest in Canada behind Air Canada and WestJet. This airline only allows domestic cats and dogs on board.

Air Transat has an extensive list of dog breeds that cannot be transported. These include Mastiffs, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and more.

Dogs and cats with snub noses are accepted for travel in the cabin and checked baggage hold, but the owner will need to meet several requirements beforehand due to the increased risk of respiratory distress. Owners with brachycephalic pets traveling in the baggage compartment will need a kennel one size larger than necessary and will have to sign a liability form.

Air Transat has a handy tool that allows you to check the availability for pets in the cabin or checked baggage hold, as the allowable number of pets varies from plane to plane.

As with other Canadian airlines, Air Transat has temperature restrictions to keep your pet safe. If there is any point during your pet’s travel where the temperature is less than -12°C or greater than 29°C, you will not be permitted to transport your pet as checked baggage.

The airline does appear to allow pets that are too large to fit in the cabin or checked baggage and those that are flying unaccompanied to be transported as air cargo. In addition, the portion of the cargo hold is temperature controlled to keep your pet comfortable on their journey.

Air Transat has a 24/7 customer service line to reserve space for your animals. They also have options for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or those with speech disabilities.

  • Online tool to check to see if there’s space in the cabin or checked baggage hold
  • Affordable rates for domestic travel
  • 24/7 customer service, including options for those with disabilities
  • Only allows cats and dogs
  • Many breed restrictions

4. Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines logo

🐶🐱 Animals Allowed: Small cats, small dogs
💲 Price (One-way): $79–$99
✈️ Max. number of pets in cabin: 4

Flair Airlines is an ultra-low-cost carrier based out of Edmonton, Alberta. They are a relatively new airline that didn’t start expanding until 2008.

The Flair Airlines website leaves a lot to be desired as the page for pet travel is not as informational as it could (or should) be. Each passenger is permitted one pet per carrier at $79 if paid online or $99 at the airport. You must purchase your pet fee at least 48 hours before your flight departs.

There appears to be an option to book a trip with your pet online instead of calling a customer service operator, which can save you much time waiting on hold. It also looks like you can add your pet to an already existing booking online.

The Flair Airlines customer service line is only open from 7 am to 9 pm (MST). You can ask a “virtual assistant” on the website for help, but it is automated and not entirely helpful.

  • Very affordable fees
  • Can book with your pet online
  • Can add a pet to an existing booking
  • Website does not go into much detail
  • Customer service is hard to get a hold of

5. Porter Airlines

Porter Airlines logo

🐶🐱 Animals Allowed: Small cats, small dogs
💲 Price (One-way): $50–$57.50
✈️ Max. number of pets in cabin: 2

Porter Airlines, though much less well-known than the airlines above, is another popular option for Canadians, especially those in the Toronto area. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t offer much in terms of routes currently, though it appears they are expanding in 2023. New routes operating from the Toronto Pearson International airport include Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton.

Porter Airlines is one of the more affordable options for owners looking to travel with their pets. The company only allows two pets in the cabin on any given flight, so the earlier you can book a space for your pet, the better. The airline allows pets in the cabin only, and they must be in a carrier that weighs less than 22 pounds once the animal is in it.

  • Most affordable fees
  • Great airline option for Toronto-based residents
  • Airline only has a few routes
  • No option to travel with larger pets

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Flying Safely With Your Pets

Flying with your animals can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’ve never done it. So let’s look at some quick tips to help take some stress off your shoulders.

Talk to Your Vet

You shouldn’t set foot on an airplane until you’ve spoken with your vet first. You need to ensure your pet is in good health to fly. Depending on where you’re flying, you may also need a health certificate which your vet can provide.

Look at Breed Restrictions

You may have noticed that some airlines have restrictions on breeds, altogether banning some, while others have special requirements like sturdy cages. Reach out to the airline to see if your pet is on a restricted list, as you might have to make other arrangements if so.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

Air travel can be hazardous when transporting certain animals. Brachycephalic dogs and cats shouldn’t be transported via the checked baggage compartment. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation suggest that short-nosed breeds are more likely to die on airplanes than dogs with normal-length muzzles. In a five-year period, half of the in-flight dog deaths involved a Brachycephalic breed.

Some airlines will allow you to travel with short-nosed breeds in the cabin, but you’ll need to take extra care to ensure your carrier is the appropriate size with proper ventilation.

cat looking at the airplane window
Image Credit: Photo Spirit, Shutterstock

Don’t Sedate Your Pet

Though it might sound much easier to sedate your pet for travel, it is not recommended in most situations. Tranquilizers can interfere with how your pet controls its body heat and may stress your pet more as its ability to think is stunted.

Acclimate Your Pet to Its Kennel

The first time your pet sees its kennel should not be at the airport. You should slowly acclimate your pet to its travel cage before your departure date. You want your pet to think of its crate as a safe and comfortable place. Try to develop positive associations with the kennel by feeding your pet in it, allowing them to nap in it, and putting your pet’s favorite toys inside to show it that a kennel is a place it can eat, sleep, and play.

Flying With Service Animals

The rules for flying with service animals are different from regular companion animals. For example, service dogs can remain in the cabin free of charge. However, they do need to be pre-registered, certified, and harnessed at all times.

As of December 1, 2021, no airlines in Canada accept emotional support animals on flights.

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Conclusion

There are many things to consider before booking a flight for you and your pet. While we’ve provided a lot of information for you today, it’s still worthwhile to call the airlines you’re considering to inquire further about their pet policies. We think the five airlines above provide the best services for Canadians looking to travel with their beloved furry family members. Still, by contacting the airlines yourself, you’ll get a better understanding of which will be the best for your needs.


Featured Image Credit: MarinaTr, Shutterstock

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