On my first trekking tour in Lapland with a dog in 2017 I got there by car and took the train on the way home. Both takes a very long time. Also Lando does not like to drive a car and booking the trains in the different countries has cost me some nerves back then. The thought of travelling by train or car made my enthusiasm for a holiday in Lapland vanish when I was planning our tour on Kungsleden 2018. There had to be a better solution after all. I came up with the idea of flying with Lando. But at the same time I had many questions. Flying with a dog? Is that possible?
Flying with a dog – is that possible?
Obviously, you can fly to northern Sweden, I did that in 2012, but back then without Lando. However, I have not had any experience with flying with dogs so far, but you always hear that this is too much stress for the dog and you should avoid flying with them. On the other hand, a long car or train ride is certainly also a stress factor. Therefore I decided to give flying a chance. If the outward flight would be disastrous, I could still spontaneously take the train on the way back.
The most important thing is good planning
Almost everyone has flown before. But flying with a dog is different. You have to consider and plan some things that you do not need when travelling without a dog. The proper preparation decides how well it works on the day of the trip. Please note that this article is about flying with a dog in the cargo hold. If you have a dog that weighs less than 8 kilograms, you can usually take it with you in the cabin.
The dog kennel
For a flight you usually need a kennel certified according to IATA (International Air Transport Association) standards. The dog should be able to stand upright, turn around and lie comfortably in it. The box also needs to be waterproof at the bottom and covered with a comfortable and absorbent blanket. There is usually a size restriction on flight kennels, but this varies from airline to airline. Therefore, if you want to take a very large dog with you, please check with your airline in advance.
Before travelling, you should get your dog used to the flight box in familiar surroundings. Practice getting in and out, close the door and leave the dog in the kennel for a while. If your dog goes into the box easily, this will save you a lot of stress at the airport.
From almost all major German airports you can easily fly to Stockholm and from there to Luleå or Kiruna. Unfortunately there is no direct flight. As I want to avoid unnecessary stress for Lando, like for example when transferring, taking off and landing, when booking I always make sure to have only one stopover in Stockholm.
Not all airlines accept dogs in the cargo area. Therefore you have to research beforehand which airlines fly to which destinations and decide with whom you want to fly. I have made a list that shows which airlines transport dogs and which do not. Please note: the following list is far from being complete!
Carriage of dogs in the cargo hold
Lufthansa, Norwegian, SAS, Air France, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Condor, KLM and more
Transport not possible
Most low-cost airlines (as e.g. Easyjet, Eurowings, Ryanair, …)
A good summary of the terms at which airlines take dogs with them you will find here: skyscanner.de
If you book your own flight with SAS, you need to call the Sales & Services Hotline within 24 hours to register your dog. With the German hotline you can do this in German, for the Swedish hotline you should speak Swedish or English. But both work well! There you enter the outer dimensions of the box and the weight of the dog. One day later you can call the hotline again and check whether the dog was accepted. If this is the case, you will also receive a confirmation by E-mail. Note: you will not simply receive the confirmation, but only if you call again. If the dog is not accepted, you can rebook your flight for free (but only if you call within 24 hours).
Costs for taking a dog on a plane
The most convenient thing is to book all flights with SAS. There, you will only be charged 99 euros once per direction. To Stockholm you can also fly with Lufthansa. With them, transport within Europe costs 200 euros. Norwegian generally also transports dogs, their prices vary between 80 and 105 euros per direction, depending on the booking type. All prices are as of April 2020. It gets a little difficult if flights are offered by one airline but operated by another. For example, if you book a flight on the SAS homepage that is operated by Lufthansa from Germany to Stockholm, you still book the dog via SAS and at their prices. At least that was the information of the SAS hotline, I have not tried this yet.
At the airport
I recommend that you bring along enough time on the day of departure. At the airport, you have to go to the SAS Service counter first and pay for the flight for the dog. Afterwards you can print out the sticker for the kennel at the counter where you also check in your own luggage. Finally you go to the special baggage counter, where the dog has to get into the box. Please remember to remove the wheels from the box first. I have made the experience that the staff at the airport in Germany is sometimes not even aware of the procedure of checking in a dog and therefore rather unable to manage it. In Stuttgart it took me over an hour the first time until I finally paid for the flight and got the sticker for the box. At all Swedish airports I have tested (Stockholm, Luleå and Kiruna) the situation is much more relaxed and the staff is more experienced with dogs.
At the airport we could actually always watch Lando being loaded into the plane and unloaded after the flight. The airline staff was always very careful with him and also looked after him from time to time if he had to wait longer on the luggage cart. During Lando’s first flight it was very hot at the departure airport. Already early in the morning the temperatures rose to well over 25 degrees. Usually the dog will have to wait in its box next to the plane for some time before loading, sometimes also in the sun. The airlines usually do not give the dog any water. Since you naturally do not know how warm it will be when you book, your dog should not be too heat-sensitive. I also would not do flights to warmer countries in summer.
Through customs in Stockholm
On the way to Sweden, the dog must be picked up in Stockholm and be registered at the Swedish customs. So don’t forget your vaccination certificate with a valid rabies vaccination! For the changeover in Stockholm above all you need time. If you fly with SAS, the airline will refuse to take your dog if the changeover time is less than 60 minutes. And you will need this time! As special luggage, the dog is usually the first to be taken off the plane, but it takes a long time until you can pick it up at the special luggage counter. Usually longer than you are used to from normal suitcases. So make sure you plan enough time for the transfer, I recommend at least 90 minutes. On the way back from Sweden to Germany the dog will be checked through. This means that you don’t have to pick him up in Stockholm like on the way there, but only at your destination airport. I therefore suggest that you try to keep the transfer time short, so that the dog does not have to stay in its box longer than absolutely necessary.
Where to leave the kennel?
In Luleå there is a storage room at the airport where you can store your kennel or other luggage. The prices depend on the luggage and the duration. For example, if you want to store a dog crate for two weeks you pay 480 SEK.
Current prices and information can be found here: swedavia.com
The airport in Kiruna is tiny and has no storage facilities. But at the tourist information in Kiruna you can leave suitcases and bags and also the dog kennel. This costs 20 SEK per day and item. Please note that you can only drop off or pick up your luggage during the opening hours.
You can find more information here: kirunalapland.se
And apart from that?
I recommend to put your name and a mobile phone number as well as the name of the dog clearly visible on the flight box. In Stockholm I got called directly when I was standing at the wrong special baggage counter.
Water for the flight
The dog has to have water in his box. Unfortunately, the kennel is sometimes held at an angle when loading and unloading, so that the water quickly runs out of the bowl. Therefore I recommend to simply put the bowl with water into the fridge before the flight. The ice thaws slowly during the flight and the dog always has some water available. And very important: secure the bowl in the box so that it cannot fly around!
I always secure the door of the box with a cable tie. This ensures that the door cannot open accidentally. At the same time there is a nice employee at every airport who can give you a pair of scissors to open up the box. Even in an emergency, anyone could open the box. Due to the transfer in Stockholm, you need two cable ties for the outbound flight and only one for the return flight.
Flying with short-nosed dogs
Falls du einen kurznasigen Hund hast, rate ich zur Vorsicht beim Fliegen, denn diese Hunde sind aufgrund ihrer Anatomie besonders gefährdet nicht genug Luft zu bekommen. Der hohe Stress beim Fliegen oder heiße Temperaturen am Flughafen während der Wartezeiten, können bei solchen Hunden zu Kreislaufproblemen und Atemnot führen. Einige Fluggesellschaften wie Lufthansa schließen daher einen Transport von kurznasigen Hunden aus. Im Zweifel solltest du also lieber auf ein anderes Verkehrsmittel umsteigen!
Our opinion on flying with dogs
On our first flight with Lando I was probably more excited than he was. We practiced going into the box at home, but Lando always had the opinion that he did not like the box at all. Who knows Lando, knows that he can be stubborn as a donkey. If he sets his mind to not liking something, he doesn’t deviate from his opinion. As a result, at the airport we always need a little compulsion and a good treat to get him into the box.
Wir haben festgestellt, dass Lando während des Fluges vor Aufregung viel hechelt und nicht trinkt. Er trinkt aber auch We noticed that Lando pants a lot of excitement during the flight and does not drink. However, he does not usually drink at home when he is alone either. Nevertheless we make sure that the flight does not take too long for this reason.
When we released Lando from the kennel, he always jumped right at us with joy and didn’t show that he had a hard day. The more often we fly, the more experienced he seems at the airport. So we decided that flying is not the most environmentally friendly, but for all of us the least stressful way to travel to Lapland. However, we will not take him on a long-distance flight. If you are looking for more information on how to prepare a trekking tour with your dog, we have more information here.