a) Ich bin faul, weshalb es diesen Post nur auf Englisch gibt. No Tschermähn this time 😉
b) I’m not a professional for travelling with pets and the stuff below is just my experience, you cannot hold me accountable for anything.
Flying with our Fräulein is easy and we’re doing it again. Your milage will vary depending on your dog and/or airline.
Let me start with a little background information. Corinna has travelled to Germany with our little Fräulein Knopf twice now and people have been asking me/us about it ever since, so I thought it to be a good idea to write a blog post about it. Here we go.
Flying with a pet in general
First, what’s flying with a pet like in general? Well, it’s pretty easy actually, there’s not much difference to riding with a bus with a dog. You buy a ticket for the animal, board the bus/plane and that’s about it. The devil – as usual – is in the details.
The “ticket” for a dog is somewhere between $100 and $150 per trip for your dog if you take it in the cabin, for Germany this means $300 round-trip for your pet. You need to book this ticket at least 24 hours in advance and the airline can refuse to accept the pet if there are already several pets on the plane in the cabin. Yet, we haven’t heard or read of any occasion where this was a problem. It probably is just some fine print to scare people away. Next, your pet needs to be well behaved and must not pee or poop places. That’s okay.
You can only take small pets with you in the cabin and they need to stay in their carrier at all times. Airlines have weight restrictions for the pet and size restrictions for the carrier. Some airlines have breed restrictions as well. If a pet is too big or the carrier is not approved, the pet needs to go into the belly of the plane – I have no idea how expensive that is, I’m assuming it’s more expensive and you need to book that transportation well in advance. Planes have a special area in the cargo hold that is pressurized and heated so pets don’t explode or freeze. Personally, I would not take my pet there but that’s up to you.
If you have a service animal or emotional support animal, they travel for free and the size limitation to travel in the cabin does not apply to them. Each airline has a different policy but in the end it’s just paperwork and preparation in advance.
Next, you need proper paperwork for your dog if you are travelling internationally. Some countries like the U.K. or Australia are completely out of bounds for pets as they require very long quarantine times, etc. but mostly it’s some vaccination, a micro ship and paperwork by a vet.
Before leaving the US, the airline will review the documentation and once entering another country, customs will check the paperwork again and that’s about it.
Overall, it’s not difficult to do if you can afford the extra money for the pet and the paperwork.
Travelling with our Fräulein Knopf
We’ve travelled with the little girl several times now, and she’s been to Germany twice and it’s been very easy. We’re continuing to travel with her.
First, the preparation for this has started months ago when we got her as a handful. It started with the carrier for her. By the way, I want to give a shout out to (Sturdy Products)[https://sturdiproducts.com] for their SturdyBag, it’s airline approved and amazing. We’ve used one for our cat when we relocated to the USA and we got another one for the Fräulein. They are not cheap but worth the money.
Anyway, we got the carrier that she flies in when we got her. So her first ever trip with us was in that same carrier, from her breeder in Spokane to Seattle back in October 2017 and she does not have any negative association with the bag at all. She goes in on her own and actually likes to sleep in it at times – we keep it in the living room.
Ever since we got her, we took and take her literally everywhere. She was riding the bus with me at 10 weeks old, she rode the monorail, etc. We take her with us to most places we go, e.g. Farmer’s Markets, the Women’s March, etc. to make sure she can handle busy places. Socialization and training is key here. Talking about training, she’s house trained and does not pee or poop places (see below how this worked out during our last trip).
Second, we prepared the paperwork for her several days before the trip. The European Union has some requirements, with Germany being more specific about them. They are very easy to fulfill: you need a rabies vaccination and a microchip just like in the US. The later can be a little tricky as most micro chips in the USA are not by the ISO standard and it depends on the customs officer if they have hardware to read non-ISO chips. Fräulein Knopf doesn’t have an ISO chip but we didn’t want her to get a second chip so we decided to see what happens. It was not a problem. Anyway, the paperwork takes a few days to complete as you have to get it filled out by your vet and send it to the local authorities. It’s annoying like hell because it’s expensive ($150–200 depending on your veterinarian), is only valid for a short time, and German authorities didn’t want to see the paperwork at all. You also need documentation about the rabies vaccination to return to the US – our vet doesn’t charge for that part…yay?!
Third, we registered our dog as an Emotional Support Animal and she will be trained as a service dog this year but that’s another story. When Corinna was flying to Germany in April to attend her brother’s funeral, there was not enough time to go through the procedures to register our dog as an ESA but once she returned, we managed to got that working. I won’t go into the process here, but it’s not easy and you need to talk to your doctor, etc. etc.
Fourth, we emailed Lufthansa about required documentation (we had everything ready) and later called Lufthansa’s dedicated hotline for pets and service animals to inform them about the dog. Communication with them via mail before our call and through the hotline was easy and friendly. Thanks Lufthansa!
Now that all the preparation was done, let’s talk about the actual travel. Our flights were in the early afternoon, so we only gave Fräulein Knopf some treats instead of her regular breakfast and to avoid any pooping accidents. And we arrived 3hrs before our actual flight, which feels just the right time (more about that later). She received treats through out the whole trip but only few at a time. We took a Lyft to the airport instead of taking the lightrail. The driver didn’t notice the dog at all because she was in her carrier. At the airport, we checked in our luggage and had to show the dog to the staff at the counter and signed a waiver for the dog (where you basically say that you are responsible for the animal, Lufthansa doesn’t quarantine anything, etc.).
This is where Lufthansa was a little different from Condor. Condor, which Corinna travelled with in April, actually weighed the SturdyBag and the dog – Lufthansa didn’t check anything but this Fräulein Knopf was an ESA anyway. On the way back from Frankfurt, an old lady had to re-book her flight as she didn’t have a proper back for her dog – the bag was like a duffle bag and had to remain open because the dog was too big for the small duffle bag – and the Lufthansa staff explained and explained the issue to the lady. I could tell that they were sorry but had to tell them that she couldn’t fly like that. We left before the thing was resolved but last I heard was that they didn’t charge her for the changed flight and they tried really hard to book her onto a flight the same day. Again, she should have checked the requirements for pets on the plane.
Where were we? Ah, right. Now that we had checked in our luggage, we took Fräulein Knopf outside for a walk where she peed and pooped. This is, in my opinion, the part that sucks. There’s literally no area outside airports with grass or earth for dogs to relief themselves.
Now, we walked through SeaTac airport with Fräulein Knopf on her leash. She stayed close by as it’s a busy place but didn’t feel uncomfortable as she’s used to situations like this. Lines at SeaTac were crazy for the TSA security check. Luckily a lady saw that we were travelling with a dog, so we were allowed to use the pre-check line. Yay! Still, it took 45min to go through security where Fräulein Knopf stayed calm and patient with us and even managed to brighten traveler’s and two TSA agent’s day. The little nugget just loves people and people love her, so: yay!
Once through security, we took the underground train to the terminal and waited at the gate. We were early, so we had about 1hr to kill until boarding. Time passed by quickly as we used the restroom, refilled our water bottles, played with our dog and talked about the trip. There also was a group of asian kids who had never touched a real dog before, and Fräulein Knopf was up to the job and it was just the sweetest thing to see our dog playing with 3 kids between the age of 2 and 8.
Boarding the plane, Fräulein Knopf was in the carrier and we made her wear a diaper just in case.
It’s like having a second piece of carry-on so it’s busy when you reach your seat. We were lucky this time and had a row of three seats to ourselves. Yay.
The purser (chief flight attendant) was aware that we were travelling with an emotional support animal, and told us that we would get the required animal belt later. Unfortunately, the flight attendant who was responsible for our section wasn’t aware and was a little brisk when she saw that the carrier was on the unused seat next to me. We told her about our dog being an “ESA” and she was friendly and professional during the rest of the trip.
During start and landing, Fräulein Knopf got treats to make sure she doesn’t pop her eardrum because of the pressure changes. She didn’t care bout the start or the landing at all but enjoyed the treats while she was in the bag and slept the rest of the flight. After we had our meal, we allowed her to sleep on our laps which she did, snoring away happily.
Now, the important question: what about the peeing/pooping? We carried Fräulein Knopf to the washroom when we had to go – twice on the 10.5hr flight. We had brought puppy pads and took one with us and let her sit on it. She didn’t use them at all but wiggled out of her diaper and peed on the puppy pad that was in her bag just before landing. I just removed it and put it in the trash – no one noticed the whole thing. In Frankfurt, we let her walk through the empty, long hallways of Frankfurt airport. This is where she actually pooped on the floor (she hadn’t pooped in 16hrs). We had anticipated that and had paper towels and disinfectant wipes with us. We cleaned up the thing real good – easy for the dog her size – and again, nobody noticed the thing. The floor was cleaner and more sterile after I cleaned it up, if I may say so.
German customs was not interested in any paperwork for the dog at all and we met my dad and off we went Stuttgart, a 2.5hr drive where she slept the whole time.
On the way back, things were pretty much the same, she flirted with everyone in Frankfurt and on the plane and the only noticeable difference was that she didn’t poop before leaving Frankfurt Airport and she didn’t pee or poop until we arrived at our place. We had to wait in line for 3hrs to go through immigration and she stayed in her bg the whole time and slept through the whole thing. I have no idea how she did this. Not having to relief oneself for 17hrs leaves me thinking that the dog might have a bladder of steel ;).
Anyway, our dog is an awesome travel companion and I love her to bits.