Taking your dog on a domestic flight is easier than you think

flying with your dog
Photo credit: DaPuglet on Flickr


This Christmas we were flying the length of the country to visit family and faced the standard dilemma: what about the dog? Leave him with friends - no, too much to ask over the silly season. Put him in kennels- he hates kennels, plus it's expensive. Take him on the plane? Surely worth consideration.

Upon further investigation we discovered that with Air New Zealand he could fly with us. And it cost a lot less than we’d expected. If you’ve ever considered this option, read on.

The Cost

 Pet's weight  Fee (NZD)
 up to 25kg  $75
 over 25kg   $100

Fees are one-way, regardless of flight duration. Each pet will be counted as a checked bag * too so that's effectively a further $10 if purchased upfront. In total a small dog costs $85 each way.

Pets can include dogs, cats or small caged birds, provided the pet is not being transported for commercial purposes.

The Process

dog air travel
  • Reservations: Once you've selected your desired flight notify the airline of your intention to carry your pet to ensure there is sufficient space (all flights have space constraints, especially smaller aircraft used for regional services). Subject to availability the airline will confirm and you can go ahead and book your passenger tickets (* remember also to select an additional checked bag to cover your pet).
  • Check-in: Upon arrival at the airport make your way to the check-in desks. Check in as passengers if you haven't already, and you'll then be re-directed to the oversized baggage counter. Here you will pay the fee of $75 or $100.
  • Travel cage: At this stage staff will ensure the travel cage meets the necessary requirements (explained below). Once satisfied, your dog will be passed to the cargo handling team and it’s time to say "Bon Voyage".
  • In-flight: Your pet will be loaded onto the plane and travel within an air-conditioned, temperature-regulated section of the hold. Our travel cage includes a water bottle which we topped up with a small amount of water. Make this decision based on how much your dog normally drinks and flight duration – ideally you don’t want them to wet their cage so they remain as comfortable as possible en route.
  • Arrival: When you arrive at your destination proceed to baggage reclaim. This is the fun bit where you and your dog will be reunited.

The Do's and Dont's

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Obtain an approved travel cage prior to your journey. If you don’t already have one this is an extra one-off cost to be considered. This cage will need to meet certain criteria, most of which concern the dimensions and locking mechanisms. For more information see Air New Zealand travel cages and other requirements.

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Get your dog used to the cage in advance so it's not a complete shock once travel day arrives. You could put them in the cage, and add their favourite toy inside, for example.

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Ensure your dog is given a decent walk before arriving at the airport. As well as providing an opportunity to take care of toilet business it can tire them out and help them stay as calm as possible prior to the flight.

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Dont' be late! Allow extra time for check-in formalities (we allowed at least one hour prior to departure which was sufficient).

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At no point let your pet out of their cage once within the airport boundaries.

The Decision

Pets don’t cope well with changes to their routine and circumstances. The sights, sounds, and smells of a commercial jet airliner will undoubtedly be unsettling for all but the hardiest pets so this is of something you’ll need to weigh up when deciding whether to fly them. Of course, the alternative is leaving them behind (in kennels or similar) which can also be a source of stress and separation anxiety.

In our experience Air New Zealand did their upmost to ease our dog through the process. It’s fair to say Rio looked tense after the flight but once reunited with us (and some treats!) he settled down soon enough. He had a blast in Queenstown for the next seven days and we loved having him with us.

New Zealand offers some amazing destinations and we've written earlier about pet friendly accommodation options. If, like us, your dog is part of the family it's brilliant having them with you on holiday - flying your dog cross-country presents more options so we'd definitely recommend it. And don't forget to pack a selection of travel accessories for your pet so they hit the ground running...not literally, of course. Happy travels!


(Note: this article is based on our specific experiences with our dog. Only you know your pet's disposition so if you're in any doubt about their ability to cope with air travel consult your vet. For other questions contact Air New Zealand's service centre who we found very helpful. The article covers only domestic flights within NZ - requirements for international travel are far more complex and should be separately researched.)

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