Layovers with Pets at the Airport

Will I be able to visit my Pet During Layovers at the Airport?

Two Factors determine if you visit your pet on a layover: Length of Layover and whether you Transit or Transfer at the airport.  Typically, layovers longer than 4 hours, you can visit your pet.  If you are transiting, you may not be able to visit your pet. If you are changing airlines, you may have to retrieve and recheck your pet.

Length of Layover Often Determines if you can Visit Your Pet. 

Length of Layover can determine if you can visit your pet. Typically, for layovers longer than typically 4 hours, you can visit your pet.  Layovers less than 3 hours, typically you cannot visit your pet. 

This is simply because, logistically, often there is not enough time for the cargo handlers to release your pet to you and prepare your pet again for the next flight.

Are you Changing Airlines with Your Pet?

Did you book your itinerary separately or all together with one airline and their partners?) i.e. (not partnered airlines)? This factor also plays into whether you can visit your Pet.

If you have a layover longer than 24 hours in most countries, you are not considered to be “In Transit”, and it will be considered as a “Stop Over”. 

If so, you may retrieve your Pet but, you must then fulfill the import requirements for your layover country and recheck your Pet if flying to fly in Checked Baggage or Cargo.

Difference Between Layover and Stop Over.

A layover is typically a connection between 2 cities, sometimes as short as 30 minutes and as long as 23 hours.  A Stop Over is staying in a connecting city 24 hours or more when traveling internationally (domestic itineraries, the limit is reduced to 4 hours).

Still, some airports regardless of the length of layover do not allow visitation (Doha in India is one).  This is largely due to security and the physical proximity of the cargo area. 

You may also be interested in: Dogs in Airports: Where to Go When Dogs Have to “Go”

Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport Poochie's Park, a pet park at the airport for Pet Travelers to exercise their dogs.
Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport Poochie’s Park

Transiting or Transfering on Your Layover with Pets.

You are Transitioning/Connecting when your itinerary through each city is booked through the same airline. (even when changing aircraft or airlines).

You are Transferring if you book each segment of your itinerary separately  for each city and each layover will be considered your final destination.

When you are transitioning/connecting, your pets will be transferred by the airline to the next aircraft.  This is much easier.  You will not have to recheck your pet or go through customs or immigration.

When transferring during a layover with a pet you must pick up your pet at the cargo facility and recheck your pet and yourself and get to your gate. 

This can take about 2 to 4 hours because you have to go through Immigration, Customs and recheck your pet, pass through security and board. This can mean you will have to comply with the country’s pet health certificate and vaccination requirements and maybe submit an import permit.  So, the length of your layover is key here

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TIP: Air France is an exception—you will retrieve and re-check your pet at each layover city regardless of whether you are connecting or transferring. And, Hamad International airport in Doha prohibits any traveler from visiting their pet during a layover. 

Layovers for Pets In Airline’s Cargo

Your pet will be moved from the aircraft to a holding facility, walked, fed and held in a larger kennel than their flight kennel. 

You can advise the airline if your pet is not amenable to being around other pets and they usually have a smaller, but separate kennel (often best for cats).  When outfitting your pet’s crate, be sure to include enough separate baggies of food, treats and medication to cover each layover stay in the pet cargo facility.

Most airlines’ facilities are very adequate to care for your pet during a layover.  Most have airconditioned  transport, well-trained animal handlers and exercise areas. 

Some airline’s facilities for pets are outstanding and set the standard for how all pets should be cared for.  Take for example Lufthansa’s Animal Lounge at their hub in Frankfurt International Airport.

“A 4000 sq.m facility with veterinarians.  There are 3 separate quiet zones for cats, its owners are sent photos if they wish to reassure them of how well their pets are being looked after. And there is always someone available to speak with an owner if needed.

If animals require medicine, special food or the like, these special requests can also be accommodated. Fifty employees and qualified animal caretakers ensure round-the-clock care.  

All of the loading area is weather protected. The animal station contains export, import and transit areas, all physically separated from each other to avoid any contact between animals being exported and imported.”  Source: Lufthansa Airlines

Some airports such as LAX in Los Angeles has Kennel Club LAX, a private luxury hotel for your pet.  The fees are reasonable, they will pick up your pet, take them on a 5 minute, air-conditioned drive, to their facility where they enjoy large play areas, grooming, bathing and meals.

RELATED: Best Cargo Crate for Flying with Large Dogs in 2022

Can I Visit or Walk My Pet During Layovers at the Airport?

Some airlines and airport facilities allow you to visit your pet.  Not all airports allow you to visit or walk your pet regardless of the length of the layover.  For example, Hamad International airport in Doha prohibits any traveler from visiting their pet during a layover. 

The concierge at the airport can check on your pet at the holding facility and report back to you during your layover.  This is readily available in first-class lounges–yet another reason to consider paying for lounge access if it’s not already included in your flight. 

If you are allowed access to visit your pet, you can take them, on leash, to the pet relief areas inside the airport.

You can and should contact your airlines in advance and ask if you will be allowed to visit your pet during a layover.  If you can visit your pet, locate the pet-relief areas and enjoy visiting your pet.

Some travelers choose not to visit their pet even when they are allowed.  You know your pet best and maybe reuniting only to be separated again an hour or two later is more stressful for your pet.  For some pets, that little respite of time to be with you again can be everything they need to stay calm and get through the rest of their journey.

Whether you’re on vacation or relocating for work, your pets are family and deserve the best treatment every segment of their journey.  Choosing your route based on the quality of the airlines animal holding facilities at layover airports is a primary consideration along with length of flights and costs. 

If you’re flying Internationally, often you need a Pet Health Certificate or Pet Passport. I have Step-by-Step Guides for Many Countries here…Pet Health Certificates and Pet Passport US to Everywhere

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