It was 38ºC on the tarmac of Palma’s Sant Joan Airport and the poor pet had to stay in his cage for another hour. His owners looked on disconsolately as Mr Boots, a chocolate Labrador, rummaged about in the hope of escaping his confinement and jumping into their arms.
That, sadly, is what many dogs and their masters have to endure when they travel by plane to and from Mallorca – and the reality is that such a situation is an ‘improvement’ on what went on before, when quarantine restrictions meant that many pets could not go with their owners on holidays. But thanks to European Union legislation, flying with a pet has never been easier.
There remain, of course, a few restrictions and guidelines on pet air travel except for guide dogs. The gradual roll-out of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) across the EU was completed when Britain came on board in January. Once the animal has an EU Pet Passport, has been vaccinated against rabies, is older than three months and has a microchip or tattoo, it is good to fly. With those hurdles cleared, the next step is getting the pet on board a plane.
For a start, commercial airlines – with the notable exception of Air Berlin – are generally reluctant to allow pets on board. Easyjet and Ryanair permit only guide dogs. Monarch Airlines, meanwhile, does allow pets – up to a maximum of six – but the price is a minimum of £540 (about €700) and they can travel only in the hold and on weekdays. They can fly from any UK airport but to return, they must fly in to Gatwick or Manchester. British Airways allows pets but not on its sole London to Palma route.
So the main inconvenience with the UK is that flying out with your pet is okay but it is a bit restrictive at times to fly into.
Flying to and from Germany poses fewer restrictions regarding the range of airports. To bring a pet with you on an Air Berlin flight, for example, costs between €30-€80 if it weighs less than 6kg and travels in the cabin or between €75-125 if it weighs more than 6kg, in which case it will have to travel in the hold.
Perhaps the most comfortable way for master and pet to fly is on a private jet. The standout benefit is that the pet can sit on a seat or on the owner’s lap and not be in a cage in the hold. Victor, a private jet broker, allows pets to travel on the master’s lap up to certain limits – if it is under 30cm and weighs less than 10kg. Anything beyond those two criteria and it must have its own seat. In line with British regulations, the pets can fly out of any airport in the UK but can return only to specific airports. In the case of Victor, the pets would be flying on London City, Farnborough and Biggin Hill to Palma routes. On German routes, all that’s needed is the Pet Passport, vaccination documentation and the microchip or tattoo.
The scene involving Mr Boots mentioned above was what motivated his owner, John Layton, to fly through Victor instead of a commercial airline. An adult chocolate Labrador can weigh up to 40kg, so in the case of Mr Boots, a seat all to himself made sense.
Mr Layton said: “I read about Victor in the Daily Telegraph, found their website and emailed them. I was over the moon when they found seats on a private aircraft from London Biggin Hill to Palma for me, my wife and Mr Boots.”
In the past, Mr Boots had been put in a cage, something his owner said he “will never do again”. He recalled the time his dog waited on the runway. “When we arrived in Palma, we could see him in the cage on the tarmac in 38 degrees of heat. They left him there for one hour and we could do nothing about it. He was exhausted and de-hydrated when we finally got him back,” he said.
Now, not only does Mr Boots fly with him, but he flies in style. Mr Layton said: “We bought seats on a positioning flight back chartered out by another Victor member so we had the whole aircraft to ourselves. Mr Boots sat on a seat next to me and spent most of the flight looking out of the window.”
Flying by private jet may be more expensive than a commercial airline – though in the case of some not that much more – but the benefits regarding comfort and ease of mind are hard to deny. But most important for owners, travelling with their pet is now easier than ever – in every sense.
For more information see: www.flyvictor.com