Young female passenger in warm clothes walking with her dog in airport hall-Pet-Friendly Airports

Pet-Friendly Airports in the World of 2024

Traveling with your pet has become increasingly common, and the demand for pet-friendly amenities is on the rise. As a pet owner, you want to ensure that your travel experience, as well as that of your pet, is as comfortable and stress-free as possible. 

However, traveling on air with pets has not been without challenges. From fewer airlines allowing traveling with pets to concerns about whether your pet is small enough to stay with you in the cabin or whether you have to endure the anxiety of having them in the cargo. Not forgetting the lack of pet-friendly amenities at the airports. 

Recognizing this need, a lot of airports around the world have made significant efforts to accommodate pets and their owners. These efforts include creating dedicated spaces for pets to play, rest, and take care of their needs before and after flights.

Because I have been dreaming of taking a vacation with my pets, I got into research mode to find pet-friendly airports around the world. Here’s everything I found. 

Criteria for Pet-Friendly Airports 

Our criterion for choosing the best airport-friendly airports entailed looking at several key factors, emphasizing the amenities and services that cater to the well-being and comfort of traveling pets. Here’s what we considered; 

Pet Relief Areas

A fundamental criterion is the availability and quality of pet relief areas within the airport. These areas must be easily accessible, well-maintained, and adequately sized to accommodate pets of all sizes. The presence of both indoor and outdoor relief areas, equipped with hygiene stations, waste disposal facilities, and drinking water, is particularly valued.

Pet-Friendly Lounges 

Airports offering designated lounges or waiting areas for pets and their owners score highly in our evaluation. These spaces should provide a comfortable and quiet environment where pets can rest and relax away from the bustle of the airport. Features such as comfortable seating, pet beds, and access to food and water are considered essential. 

On-Site Veterinary Services

The availability of veterinary services on-site is a significant indicator of an airport’s commitment to pet-friendly travel. Services should include emergency medical care, health check-ups, and travel certification assistance. This criterion ensures that pets in distress can receive immediate care and that pet owners have peace of mind during their travels. 

Accessibility and Signage

Navigating an airport with a pet can be challenging. Therefore, clear and informative signage leading to pet-related facilities is crucial. Additionally, these amenities should be accessible to all travelers, including those with mobility issues, ensuring that everyone traveling with pets can utilize the services provided.

Pet Handling and Boarding Services

Airports that offer professional pet handling and boarding services are recognized for their comprehensive approach to pet-friendly travel. These services may include assistance with boarding and deplaning, pet sitting during layovers, and even grooming services. Such support is invaluable for ensuring the safety and comfort of pets throughout the travel process. 

Customer Service Training

Staff training in pet handling and awareness significantly enhances the travel experience for pet owners. Airports where personnel are knowledgeable about the needs of traveling pets and can provide assistance and information confidently score highly for customer service. 

Additional Amenities

Additional amenities, such as pet shops, grooming stations, and pet-friendly cafes, contribute to an airport’s standing as a top pet-friendly destination. These services cater to the last-minute needs of travelers and provide opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment before or after a flight. 

traveler woman and her dog walking by the airport. information screens

Top Pet-Friendly Airports in the World 

When searching for pet-friendly airports in the world, it’s not hard to notice that a lot of the available options are in the US. fortunately, there are several options in other regions, like Europe with pet-friendly amenities for your pets. In no particular order, here are some of the top pet-friendly airports. 

JFK International Airport, New York, USA

Renowned for its state-of-the-art pet facilities, JFK Airport boasts the “The Ark at JFK,” a 178,000-square-foot animal terminal catering to various animals, including pets. This facility features 24-hour veterinary care, post-security pet relief areas, and an overnight pet resort for dogs and cats. Additionally, the airport offers designated dog walking areas, dog fountains, and a 4,000-square-foot outdoor garden patio for pets to stretch their legs during layovers.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) 

This busy airport caters to pet travelers with pet amenities inside and outside the airport. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport provides several indoor animal relief areas (SARAs), a 1,000-square-foot dog park, and a pet relief area in the arrivals area of the international terminal. In addition, the airport also provides benches and bio-degradable bags. 

Calgary International Airport (YYC), Canada

Calgary International Airport (YYC) offers pet relief areas located outside its terminal buildings, specifically designed to cater to the needs of traveling pets. In addition, the airport has extended its pet-friendly measures to its customer service, with staff trained to assist travelers with pets, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free airport experience. 

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), USA

Los Angeles International Airport provides several pet relief stations pre and post-security with free bags for waste disposal. They also offer therapy dog teams through their PUP (Pets Unstressing Passengers) program that roam the terminals to help reduce your stress levels. The pet relief areas are found at various locations both before and after security.

Heathrow International Airport (LHR), UK

While Heathrow International Airport doesn’t provide numerous relief stations for pets, it currently has 2 stations in terminals 3 and 5. The areas have soft and hard services that provide an excellent place for your pet to relieve themselves when traveling. Additionally, the airport also offers waste bags and bins, allowing you to clean up after your pet. 

Helsinki Airport

Due to the increasing demand for pet-friendly amenities at the airport, Helsinki Airport upped its service offering. There are 2 pet relief areas, one inside the non-Schengen area and the second station outside its arrivals hall. Its indoor pet relief area is covered with artificial grass, making it pretty easy to clean after your pet. Additionally, the pet relief areas are well-marked, making it easier for you to identify where to take your pet.  

Istanbul Airport

Istanbul Airport is not left behind when it comes to offering pet-friendly amenities for customers traveling with their pets. It provides four pet relief areas on the departures, arrivals, and international floors. 

Overview of Pet-Friendly Airports

As mentioned earlier, a lot of airports have taken the necessary steps to accommodate pets. But what constitutes a pet-friendly amenity in an airport? While the amenities might vary, there are some key features to watch out for. 

Pet-Friendly Amenities

To be deemed pet-friendly, an airport should have several pet relief areas strategically placed throughout the airport. These spaces are equipped with amenities such as waste disposal stations and water fountains, ensuring a clean and comfortable environment for your pet’s comfort and hygiene.

Another amenity that pet-friendly airports prioritize is the provision of well-maintained and easily accessible pet restrooms. These facilities are designed to accommodate various pet sizes and breeds, facilitating a stress-free experience for both pet owners and their animals.

Besides these, some airports often incorporate additional amenities, such as water stations, where your pet can hydrate before or after the journey.

Airport Policies Supporting Pet Travel  

Besides the available amenities, you also need to consider policies that actively support and facilitate pet travel. A key characteristic is the availability of clear and accessible information regarding pet policies. From the moment you plan your journey, having transparent information on the airport’s regulations regarding pet transportation allows you to make informed decisions and streamline your travel preparations.

pet-friendly airports exhibit a welcoming attitude towards pets in public spaces. This extends beyond designated pet areas, acknowledging the presence of pets as part of the travel experience. Whether it’s navigating through security checks or waiting in boarding areas, airports with pet-friendly policies foster an inclusive atmosphere that accommodates your needs and those of your pet.

Additionally, the availability of pet-friendly transportation options within the airport is indicative of a commitment to facilitating seamless movement for travelers with pets. From readily accessible elevators to designated pet-friendly shuttles, these airports prioritize the convenience of pet owners, acknowledging the unique requirements of those traveling with their animal companions.

Essential Pet Amenities at Airports to Consider

There are a lot of amenities that airports can integrate to make an airport pet-friendly. But there are some essential amenities to watch out for, including;

Pet Relief Areas and Stations

Airports have recognized the importance of pet relief areas and have incorporated these spaces to accommodate traveling pets. These designated areas are often equipped with artificial or real grass, making them more like natural environments. Service animal relief areas are usually available post-security, saving you the trouble of passing security checks again. They come with essentials such as waste disposal bags and receptacles.

  • Indoor Relief Areas: Typically feature fake grass and a drainage system
  • Outdoor Relief Areas: May include real grass, benches, and a fenced-off section

In-Terminal Pet Parks

Some airports go a step further by offering in-terminal pet parks. These areas not only serve as relief stations but also as spots where your pet can exercise and play. These areas will often have:

  • Artificial Grass Areas: Safe, clean, and low-allergenic surfaces
  • Pet Drinking Fountain: Ensuring your pet stays hydrated

Additional Services for Pets and Owners

Beyond the basics, some terminals offer additional services for traveling pets. Luxury pet boarding facilities may be available near the airport, providing grooming, daycare, and overnight stays. The presence of these amenities can be a relief if you have a long layover or flight delay.

  • Boarding and Grooming: Professional services to take care of your pet’s needs
  • Pet-Friendly Amenities: Varying from airport to airport, it could range from a simple dog walk to a full-scale pet resort

Navigating Airport Security and Boarding

When flying, knowing the specific requirements for moving through airport security with your pet and understanding the boarding process will ensure a smooth experience for both you and your furry companion.

Security Protocols for Pets

The security protocols for pets may vary among airports. However, the basics may include ensuring your pet remains in the pet carrier until instructed by the airport personnel. 

Depending on the airport there may be dedicated areas for pet relief before you proceed through security. For service dogs, you may walk them through the metal detector while other pets may need to remain in their carrier and pass through the X-ray machine separately. Small animals typically need to be carried during the manual inspection, and in some cases, a pat-down may be required. Here’s a checklist for the security process:

  • Have your ID and boarding pass handy.
  • Have your pet’s documentation 
  • Prepare your pet by ensuring they are comfortable and secure in their carrier.
  • Follow airport security officers’ instructions for screening pets.
  • Know the airport’s pet policy beforehand.

Boarding Process with Pets

When it’s time to board, different airlines have varying policies, so check your airline’s terms for flying with pets. Inform the gate agent about your pet, and they’ll guide you through the boarding process which typically follows after passengers with priority or those needing assistance. Keep your pet’s comfort in mind and board at the right time to minimize their stress. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Notify the gate staff about your pet.
  • Board the plane as instructed, usually after priority boarding.
  • Place the carrier under the seat in front of you, not in the overhead compartment.
Dogs and people traveling at airport in a queue

Tips for Traveling Through Pet-Friendly Airports

Navigating airports with pets, while significantly improved by pet-friendly amenities, still requires careful planning and preparation. These tips are designed to help you make the most of the facilities at pet-friendly airports, ensuring a smooth and stress-free journey.

Research Airport Amenities in Advance

Before your trip, take the time to research the specific pet-friendly amenities offered at your departure and arrival airports. Look for information on pet relief areas, pet lounges, and veterinary services. Knowing the location of these amenities can save time and reduce stress on the day of travel. 

Familiarize Your Pet with Travel Conditions

If possible, acclimate your pet to the travel carrier and the general environment of travel in the weeks leading up to your trip. Short, positive experiences in the carrier and car rides can help reduce anxiety and make the travel experience more comfortable for your pet.

Arrive Early

Arriving early at the airport allows you and your pet to find pet relief areas and use them without rushing, reducing stress for both of you. It also provides extra time to address any travel documentation needed for your pet.

Carry Essential Items

Pack a travel bag for your pet that includes water, a collapsible bowl, treats, a favorite toy, and any necessary medications. Having familiar items can help soothe your pet during the journey.

Use Pet Relief Areas Before and After Flights

Take advantage of pet relief areas both before boarding and after landing. These areas are designed to help your pet stretch, relieve themselves, and relax, contributing to their overall comfort during the travel process.

Keep Your Pet Hydrated

Ensure your pet stays hydrated, especially during long flights. Offer water before and after the flight, but avoid feeding your pet a large meal right before traveling to prevent discomfort.

Follow Airport and Airline Pet Policies

Each airport and airline has specific policies regarding pet travel. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these requirements well in advance of your trip to ensure compliance and avoid any surprises on the day of travel.

Stay Calm and Patient

Your pet can pick up on your emotions, so maintaining a calm and patient demeanor can help keep them relaxed. Positive reinforcement and gentle reassurance can go a long way in managing your pet’s stress levels.

FAQ

Do All Airlines Allow Pets to Travel in the Cabin?

Not all airlines permit pets to travel in the cabin, as policies vary significantly among carriers. Most airlines that do allow pets in the cabin have specific requirements regarding the size of the pet and the carrier. It’s essential to check with your airline well in advance of your trip for their specific pet travel policies.


What Are the General Requirements for a Pet Travel Carrier?

A pet travel carrier must be well-ventilated, secure, leak-proof, and large enough for the pet to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Most airlines also require the carrier to fit under the seat in front of you for in-cabin travel. Ensure your carrier meets the airline’s specific dimensions and standards before traveling.


Can I Take My Pet Through Airport Security?

Yes, pets can go through airport security. However, they must be taken out of their carriers, which will be x-rayed separately. Pets typically walk through the metal detector with their owner or are carried. It’s advised to have a leash or harness for this part of the process to ensure your pet’s safety and security.


What Documents Are Required for Traveling With a Pet?

Required documents can include a health certificate from a veterinarian, proof of vaccinations, and sometimes a pet passport, depending on your destination. The specifics can vary by airline and destination, so it’s crucial to gather this information well in advance of your travel date.


How Can I Prepare My Pet for Air Travel?

Gradually acclimating your pet to their carrier in the weeks leading up to travel can make the experience less stressful for them. Consider short, positive sessions involving the carrier, treats, and comfort items like toys or blankets. It’s also a good idea to maintain a calm demeanor, as pets can pick up on their owners’ emotions.


What Should I Do If My Travel Plans Include a Layover?

For layovers, familiarize yourself with the pet relief areas in the airports you’ll be visiting. Allow your pet to use these facilities and offer water during the layover. Ensure your pet’s comfort and safety by monitoring them closely and never leaving them unattended.

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