How to Pick Up & Drop Your Pet at the Airport

How to Pick Up and Drop off Your Pet at Baggage Claim, Cargo, How Long to wait and assistance with Pets in airports including VIP Service.

Pets in Airports: Checked Baggage and Cargo Pet Travel Process:

Pets in Checked Baggage:  The Process:

1.  You arrive at the airport and take your Pet through to the Ticket Counter 3-4 hours before the flight.

This is the same area you drop off your luggage and print your boarding pass. 

2.  Look for a Separate Counter for Special Services.

Many airlines have a separate counter on either side of the line of Airline Ticket Agents for you to bring your Pet.

3.  Most airlines require you to keep your Dog in their kennel so finding a cart helps unless your Pet Carrier has removable wheels.  Some carts are free, and some are up to $5 (Denver for one).

4.  The Airline Agent will look over your documents and tag your Pet’s crate with a matching ID to your route. 

5.  Does the Airline Weigh My Pet for Checked Baggage?

The Airline Agents have discretion to weigh and measure your Pet with Kennel. Crates are stacked on the Plane so, it must be at least visually inspected for sturdiness, ventilation and security.

After 3 years of Pet Travel and talking with so many other Travelers with Pets, most airlines do not weigh your Dog and crate. Be prepared!

If your Dog looks too long or too heavy, they will be more likely to weigh your Pet.

6.  Your Pet and Kennel will leave you now and head to the airports live animal holding area. 

They will be wait there for 2 or 3 hours waiting to be transported to the aircraft.

Remember, they are the last on the plane and the first off.

7.  Because your Pet arrives to the airport so early and will wait for a few hours before the flight, it is important to prepare your Pet before the flight.

8. Most airlines require you to arrive with your Pet at 3-4 hours before they actually board the plane.

Exercise a bit more than usual the day of the flight. 

If the airport is a long drive, stop at the rest station close to the airport.  Many airports have a parking lot for those waiting for arrivals. 

Encourage drinking water and going pee or poo as much as possible.

9. Do not feed your Pet within 3-4 hours of travel.

Not eating is okay—too full that air turbulence makes them through up or have diarrhea in their crate=Bad

When you are preparing for your flight, consider altering their feeding and treat schedule to align with the flight time. 

If you do, they will have eaten but not so recently that they will likely go pee or poop (link) in the airport or crate.

But, they will have recently eaten enough to make it through the flight.  Even though you do provide food and water in their Cargo crate, many are too stressed to eat.

10.  During layovers, stopovers and at your Destination your Pet will be given food and water and visually checked for stress. 

Some airports are staffed to allow your Pet to come out of their crate and get some exercise. 

See Layovers with Pets for communicating with Airport staff for a check in with your Pet.

Pets in Cargo: The Airport Drop Off & Pick Up Process:

1. Get Directions for the Cargo Drop off Facility

The Cargo facility location is on the airport grounds but not in the terminal where you check in.  

It’s also secure and not in walking distance—especially, with luggage.

Locate the outlying facility and have directions ready.  If you have a rental car, you should drop off your Pet before you return your rental car.  I even drop off my luggage at the valet (the tip is worth it), then return the rental & take their shuttle with just carry on. Or park my car and walk in with just my carry on.

2.  Drop off your Pet at Cargo 3-4 hours before your flight.  

Most airlines require you to arrive with your Pet at the Cargo facility 3-4 hours before they actually board the plane.

Exercise a bit more than usual the day of the flight.  

If the airport is a long drive, stop at the rest station close to the airport.  Many airports have a parking lot for those waiting for arrivals.  

Encourage drinking water and going pee or poo as much as possible.

3.  Do not feed your pet within 3-4 hours of travel. 

Not eating is okay—too full that air turbulence makes them through up or have diarrhea in their crate=Bad

When you are preparing for your flight, consider altering their feeding and treat schedule to align with the flight time.  

If you do, they will have eaten but not so recently that they will likely go pee or poop (link) in the airport or crate. 

But, they will have recently eaten enough to make it through the flight.  Even though you do provide food and water in their Cargo crate, many are too stressed to eat.

4. Have your way-bill or International Pet Heath Certificate and travel documents copied and carry extras.  

One set with you, one set affixed to the crate in a clear cover and one extra for drop off. 

Prepare Your Pet’s Crate for Cargo well in advance and ensure they are Crate trained.  

See Detailed Guide Prepare a Pet Crate for Air Travel

See Detailed Guide How To Crate Train Your Pet for Air Travel

Remember, Your Pet is the last on and first off the aircraft.

5.  After you arrive at your Destination, you will collect your bags and then head to the Cargo Facility 

6.  Again, this is a secure area and often off-site of the terminal.  It’s on the airport grounds, but not the same building.

7.  There will be about a 1-4 hour delay between arrival and reuniting with your Pet.  

While you are deplaning, clearing immigration (for international travel) and picking up your luggage, the flight crew will transport your Dog or Cat off the aircraft.

Most airports and airlines have climate-controlled transport and drive your Pet directly from the plane to the cargo building. 

Larger airports and those that are not short-staffed have dedicated live animal facilities such as Hamad International Airport in Doha, have a state-of-the-art live animal facility. 

These facilities can allow your Pet out of their crate and let them walk and get exercise.

Many airports do not have such great facilities and your Pet will remain in their crate or an enclosure but, all will be fed and given fresh water and checked for distress.

How Long will My Pet Wait at the Airport?

Pets are last on, first off aircraft.  They wait in secure, temperature controlled facilities and usually stay in their crate.  If the facility is more sophisticated and better staffed, they may be walked and given a larger kennel. Three or 4 hours is the average wait time for Pets at the Airport.

Pet Assistance in Airports: Escorts and VIP Service

Making your way through an airport can be frustrating, especially at an airport new to you.

It is made even harder when you travel with Pets-it becomes a huge hurdle when juggling crates, luggage and all the lines and distractions. Pet parents have special needs.

How Pet Assistance and VIP Service in Airports Work:

From a simple transport cart escorting your Pets by airport staff to VIP service who meet you at the gate, whisk you to immigration control, customs, VAT refund, baggage claim to your taxi, all in a private cart and straight to the front of all the lines.

2 Options for Pet Assistance in Airports

1. Free: Airports often have dedicated staff to help anyone with mobility issues including transporting Pets.

Staff escorts are usually free. They cruise around almost every airport.  Contact the airport Special Services and reserve in advance by phone or email.   

2.  Book a VIP Service

I booked a VIP service for my first trip to Bangkok.  The airport is huge and after 20+ hours flying with my Cats from Denver,

I knew I was going to need some help, or it would take another couple of hours navigating the airport before my Pets could get out and we could rest at the hotel.

The Benefits of VIP Service for Pets in Airports:

  • No navigating through foreign airports
  • No waiting in long lines
  • Easy transport through Immigration Control
  • Assistance with Customs
  • Collecting Your Luggage and Carrying your Pet’s Crate
  • VAT, Bathroom and Currency Exchange stops
  • Fast track transport when connecting flight times are tight
  • Good for short layovers connection times
  • Great for Anyone who needs extra help.  Pet Parents, elderly or anyone with mobility issues. 
  • Fast track to Pet relief stations and the best outdoor space so your Pet can pee or exercise.

I paid $160 for all this, and I will do it again—it is well-worth the money. 

The average cost of VIP Pet Service in Airports is from $160 in Bangkok to $450 in London or Singapore. The cost varies by the affluence of the Destination, size of the Airport and availability of staff—especially during the Pandemic.

This service is not just for the luxury traveler. When I fly in economy, I have to wait longer in each line than when first-class.

I have to arrive at the airport 3 or more hours in advance and contend with longer security, custom and immigration lines than I do with business and first class fliers who often go to the front of the line.

What Happens to My Pet During a Layover?

Layovers under 3 hours and your Pet is traveling in the cargo or as checked baggage, they are transported from one airplane to the next when Pet travel is booked through the same airline.

See all about Layovers with Pets at the Airport