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 about how pets travel.

In our 16 years of relocating pets all over the world, we have found that manifest cargo is the safest way to get your pets to their new home. But how do you know what’s right for you and your pet? Let’s consider the similarities and differences of relocating your pets as 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).

But what gives manifest cargo the edge over excess baggage? There are several benefits to shipping your pets as manifest cargo.

Trained Staff

When a pet is traveling as manifest cargo they are checked in by cargo employees who have undergone “pet safe” training.
An airline that is “pet safe” signals that employees are specifically trained to handle live animals and that they follow a “last on, first off” policy. This means pets are given priority, they are transported in temperature-controlled vehicles, and they are never left to sit on the tarmac.


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.

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).


Many airlines only allow two pets when it comes to booking your pets as excess baggage. For some larger families, that won’t work. If you have more than two pets, manifest cargo isn’t just the safest option, but often the only option.


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


If your route contains a layover, there is added risk that problems could arise with your pet’s travels if they are checked as excess baggage. It’s not uncommon for excess baggage to not make it to the connecting flight. This is annoying when it is your luggage but could be dangerous for a live animal. 

When your pet travels 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.

In 2019 we relocated 2,000 pets and the vast majority of them flew as manifest cargo with no issue. This method provides the safest and least stressful experience for pets, which is our number one priority (and probably yours, too).

If you're starting to plan your journey and would like assistance, we can help! Schedule your consultation today. 


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Ask the Experts


Cats, Dogs, Snub-Nosed Breeds


Back to top