UPDATE: Sadly, with the demise of certain airlines and with the UK leaving the EU (Brexit) most of this information concerning airlines and pet passports is now out of date.
When we decided to move to Fuerteventura, one of the urgent things we had to sort out was the transport of our three dogs, Reńe, Mia and Sherry.
Our biggest problem was the logistics of completing on the sale of our house, shipping our furniture, and moving out with our dogs, knowing that we only had temporary accommodation on Fuerteventura for three weeks.
There are basically two ways of getting dogs to Fuerteventura, fly or by car and ferry. For us car and ferry were out of the questions. Too long a journey, probably not much cheaper than flying, and none of our dogs like long car journeys!
The first and most important thing we had to do, was to ensure the dogs could legally fly and enter Fuerteventura. This meant getting a pet passport done at the vets for each of the dogs. We needed to make sure we allowed plenty of time (I recommend sorting this out 3 months before you plan to fly), and as it turned out, we had actually already sorted the pet passports out the previous year, when our first house sale fell through. In fact we were worried that it might be out of date. As it turned out, the rabies injection that our dogs had was valid for three years.
At the time of getting the passports, we first had our dogs microchipped (note: it is now law that all dogs in the UK must be microchipped), and then made the appointment with the vet for their rabies vaccination and passport. When making the appointment, we asked them to check that they had enough rabies vaccination in stock, and made sure they kept it for us.
Next were their crates. We purchased our crates through Amazon.
When shipping animals you have to adhere to the IATA recommendations for the size and type of the crate.
1. CONTAINER CONSTRUCTION
Rigid plastic containers are suitable for most breeds of dog. However, some rigid plastic containers may not be suitable for large dogs, or dogs that are aggressive. If a container has wheels they must be removed.
Specially constructed containers of hardwood, metal, plywood or similar material, with two secure door fasteners on each side, are acceptable. Containers made entirely of welded mesh or wire mesh are not suitable for air transport.
A water container that is accessible from outside the crate is required, so that they can fill it without opening the crate door.
You can buy rigid plastic crates off the shelf, which can be disassembled for easier storage or, as in our case, fitting in the hire car. There are also companies which make crates to order, but they tend to be wooden ones and not easily transported if you have a big dog.
2. CONTAINER SIZE
Each pet in the crate must have enough space to turn about normally while standing, to stand, to sit erect, and to lie in a natural position. Some at cargo will insist that if the dogs ears are erect, then the tip must not touch the top of the crate.
The calculated dimensions are internal container dimensions and relate to the standing animal in a natural position.
A = length of animal from tip of nose to base/root of tail.
B = height from ground to elbow joint. A + ½ B = length of container.
C = width across shoulders or widest point (whichever is the greater). C x 2 = width of container.
D = height of animal in natural standing position from top of the head or the ear tip to the floor (whichever is higher)/height of the container (top flat or arched).
Minimum internal container dimensions:
A + ½ B = Length
C x 2 + Width
D = Height
Snub nosed breeds require 10% larger container.
Measurements A, B, C and D for determining the container dimensions must relate to the largest animal.
The width of the container being calculated as:
• Two animals: C x 3
• Three animals: C x 4
The height and length are determined the same as for a single animal.
We considered several scenarios regarding the logistics of shipping the dogs but ultimately decided on flying on the same plane if at all possible. We were going to use two crates as our two small dogs could fly in the same crate (the criteria is up to 14kg each).
We first thought of using an agent, especially as we knew a couple personally, and asked for quotes, both of which were just over £2,000. We felt that was expensive and therefore looked at shipping them ourselves.
It should be noted at this point that you deal with the airlines shipping agents, NOT the airline themselves. You should be able to find out who they are and contact details on the airlines website.
At the time that we moved over, February 2017, there were three airline companies that we were considering, as we were restricting our departure to the Midlands area. These were Thomas Cook, Thomson and Monarch (obviously Monarch have now ceased trading).
Our first choice was going to be Thomson flying from Stansted, bearing in mind that it is recommended that the dogs are delivered to the shipping area three hours before the flight time. However as it turned out, the crate containing our Canaan Dog, Reńe, was too big to fit in their cargo hold. so flying with Thomson was obviously a no go.
Plan B was to fly Thomas Cook, who quoted a similar price to Thomson (Monarch were the most expensive).
The shipping agents that Thomas cook used (at the time of our arrival here) were EuroGSA, and they were always very accommodating and patient.
When you know which flight you want to book (you need to allow 2-3 weeks notice) reserve the dog’s shipping FIRST, then book and confirm your personal flights before confirming the shipping. This is because you can change the date of the shipping for free, but changing your flights will incur a charge.
Once flights and shipping are all booked they send you the paperwork, which you need to sort out. It is not very difficult, but there are a lot of copies required for some of the forms.
I will stress at this point – CHECK THE DETAILS VERY CAREFULLY. I encountered a couple of errors that needed sorting quickly. Most of the time I contacted the shippers by e-mail, but I did need to phone them a few times as well.
On the day of departure we loaded our friend’s car, who was kindly taking us, and trundled off to East Midlands airport at 4am in the morning! We arrived in plenty of time, in fact the guy there said we were too early, so much for being there three hours before!
After sorting out the paperwork he loaded our crates onto a trolley, however, one was balancing precariously and my wife pointed out that it was not safe and would fall off. Despite him assuring us he would hold it at all times, he let go to shut the door and of course it fell over. Thankfully Reńe was not hurt and seemed ok.
That sorted it was time for us to check in and say goodbye to our friend.
My wife’s biggest fear was that the dogs wouldn’t make it onto our plane, perhaps being flown off to some other destination! So when we boarded she asked one of the cabin staff if they could check that the dogs were indeed onboard. A couple of minutes later they came down to confirm that the captain himself had seen them and they were fine.
We had a logistical problem when we arrived in Fuerteventura as we had decided on a small hire car, so we were anticipating several trips from the airport to our new temporary home in Caleta. We had read conflicting information about picking animals up from the cargo area, but ultimately decided to go directly there after collecting our hire car. We were surprised and delighted to find that our dogs were already there waiting for us. We paid the handling fee and started to load the car. We managed to get everything in except Reńe (Canaan Dog) and his huge crate, so my wife stayed there while I went to the villa, which thankfully was only 10 minutes away, to offload.
When I went to reload the car we discovered that it was a very tight squeeze to get Reńe’s crate in the car even when it was disassembled, but we made it eventually, and had just enough room to squeeze Reńe in!
UPDATE!! Sadly, since our move and writing this article, two airlines went out of business, Monarch and Thomas Cook, and at this time it only leaves Thomson who will fly pets. We have no idea if Thomson now have planes to accept larger crates. Also, with the onset of Brexit, the EU pet passport system will no longer be available.