If you are starting to research the logistics of moving your pet, you may be feeling a little nervous. One of the most common and emotionally charged questions we receive is how pets travel—especially if they will be flying as cargo

In our 16 years of moving pets, PetRelocation has found that we prefer manifest cargo as the safest option for flying animals. But how do you know what’s right for you and your fur family? Let’s consider the similarities and differences of relocating your pets as excess baggage and manifest cargo—the two primary pet air travel options.


What are the similarities between excess baggage and manifest cargo?

  • Pets fly below the plane in temperature and pressure-controlled cargo hold.

  • Pets always need to travel in airline-approved travel crates.

  • Airlines will require a health certificate issued by a vet prior to travel (usually within 10 days of departure).
  • Tickets must be booked in advance (often at least 24-48 hours depending on the airline).


What are the differences between excess baggage and manifest cargo?


When a pet is traveling as excess baggage, they must be linked to their owner’s flight booking. However, the best flight for you may not be the best flight for your pet. If you are taking your pet as excess baggage, PetRelocation cannot arrange this booking for you nor provide assistance on the day of travel. Please make sure to contact your airline to ensure you are aware of check-in time and procedures.  

When a pet travels as manifest cargo, they are booked on their own ticket (called an air waybill). This means that your pets can arrive before or after you. Many pet owners enjoy this option as it allows them time to get their new home set up so their pet is able to be welcomed into a happy and calm environment (and not into a chaotic moving day). When your pet travels as manifest cargo, PetRelocation can arrange flight booking and all details related to check-in on your behalf. 



Many airlines only allow two pets to be booked as excess baggage. For some larger families, that simply won’t work. If you have more than two pets, manifest cargo isn’t just the safest option, it's often the only option.

Large number of pets traveling as manifest cargo
In most cases, large families can travel together as manifest cargo!


If you are flying your pets as excess baggage, a layover could be an extra challenge to your travel plans. For all kinds of live animals, most airlines will require the pet owner to ensure they are checked into their connecting flight. This could add unnecessary headaches to your journey, especially if your layover is on the shorter side. 

If you are flying your pets as manifest cargo, the airline has strict regulations on handling pets during their layover. Lufthansa’s Animal Lounge in Frankfurt is a great example! When a pet is traveling as manifest cargo and has a stop at the Frankfurt Animal Lounge, the pet is fed and looked after by trained animal handlers before being checked into their connecting flight.

Large dog travels as manifest cargo
Drake, who traveled as manifest cargo in 2019,
enjoying his stay at the Frankfurt animal lounge.


Lastly, some countries require pets to arrive as manifest cargo. Australia, for example, will not allow pets to arrive in-cabin or as excess baggage. So, if your family is planning a move down under, there is only one acceptable means of transportation.

Why manifest cargo is our preference:

Every year, we relocate more than 2,000 pets and the vast majority of them fly as manifest cargo with no issues! We prefer manifest cargo because: 

  • This method allows our clients the freedom to make the travel arrangements that work best for them.

  • Manifest cargo routes allow larger pet families to travel together.
  • Airlines are trained to handle pets on their layovers. 
  • All countries accept pets arriving as manifest cargo.



PetRelocation can still help you if traveling as excess baggage is the right move for your pet. Our team of experts can still assist you in choosing the right travel crate, providing crate acclimation tips, guiding veterinary consultations, managing import permits (if applicable), and government endorsements. However, we will not be able to assist with anything related to your flight such as how to book your flight, the check-in process, or customs clearance upon arrival into your new home country.


Regardless of your chosen method of travel, PetRelocation wants to help. Check out our pricing and pet relocation process for more information!


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Ask the Experts


Cats, Dogs, Snub-Nosed Breeds


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