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Layovers and Transfers for Dogs and Cats at Heathrow Airport

Published on: April 1, 2019  |  Author: Starwood Animal Transport

woman at heathrow airport layover while her animal is transferred

One of the most difficult aspects of planning an international journey for your pet is making appropriate flight reservations. A short hop is one thing, but long distances generally require layovers, plane transfers, even carrier changes, depending on your departure and destination cities. If you are moving from the US to Dubai, for example, there’s a good chance your pet will make a stop at London Heathrow airport along the way. It’s called transiting because you’re just passing through.

So, how does that work?

If you could carry your tiny dog or cat on board with you, layovers would be easy. You could simply deplane and spend the time with your pet shopping the concourses or visiting the airport’s pet relief area. Transferring from one gate to another would be simple. But if you’re traveling to – or through – the UK, your pet cannot ride in the passenger cabin. This is typical of international flights, often due to local customs regulations.

You can spend your layover exploring Heathrow or even London itself, if you’ll have enough time. Your dear Charlie, dog or cat, will spend his time at HARC – the Heathrow Animal Reception Center.

HARC is quite the facility

Pet travel is increasing every year, and pet parents have higher expectations about their pet’s care in transit. So some large airports now have hotel-like accommodations that serve transiting animals as well as arrivals. London Heathrow is one example. HARC is located offsite but near the airport, along the Southern Perimeter Road.

The facility serves all types of animals, not just pets. In a typical year, their guests include 16,000 cats and dogs, 400 horses, 2,000 birds, 200,000 reptiles, and 28 million fish (think aquariums, not dinner). Charlie will be in good hands. The facility has two main responsibilities:

  • To check out arriving animals and ensure all their paperwork is in order per UK and EU animal import regulations.
  • To provide comfortable space for pets to relieve themselves, play, eat, and snooze.

One of HARC’s 30 employees will pick up Charlie after his plane touches down at Heathrow and bring him to the Animal Reception Centre. Veterinary staff will review his health and travel documentation, even though he is not formally entering the UK. Then he can chill out until it’s time for the next leg of his journey. He is allowed to spend up to 48 hours at HARC, where he will have his own personal kennel.

Here’s why you’re glad you a hired pet transport professional

If you were to handle all of Charlie’s travel arrangements on your own, you would be responsible for him during layovers or transfers. Charlie has to go through customs as he’s transiting, just as you do, but he’s not with you. So you’d have to allow hours of extra time to get him squared away and ensure you make the right connections as well. You’d have to retrieve Charlie at HARC and get him back over to the airport itself – the cargo terminal, not the passenger gate – to continue on his journey.

The complexity of that is head-spinning. But it’s all good, because you teamed up with our Starwood experts instead of driving yourself mad with frustration and worry about Charlie’s travel experience. We have a team on the ground in the UK, poised to personally attend to Charlie’s layover or transfer details. The peace of mind is indescribable, knowing your dear dog or cat is in the best of care while you wrestle with your own transiting details.

In fact, our team monitors every moment of your pet’s journey. That starts with choosing the most efficient itinerary for Charlie. A long day of travel is annoying for you, and it’s something we try to avoid with pets. Their accommodations in cargo are comfortable enough, but there’s no food cart or tiny bathroom down the way. We know the routing options that will give your furry friend the shortest trip. Nonetheless, sometimes layovers or transfers cannot be avoided.

For obvious reasons, HARC is open around the clock, every day of the year. They’re ready to accommodate Charlie comfortably and safely whenever he arrives. But this is just a waypoint on Charlie’s relocation journey. With a pro on his team, he entire travel experience, including layovers or transfers, will be as safe, smooth, and comfortable as possible.

Flying with your pet