Chartering A Flight to Bring Your Pets to Portugal

By James Cave / Published: September 2021 / Last updated: June 2022
Posted in: Living in Portugal

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One of the biggest challenges of moving to Portugal is not getting a residency visa, learning the basics of the Portuguese language, or shipping your belongings. Not, it’s bringing your furry friends here – if you’re a pet owner, anyway. While some airlines allow pets to come in the cabin, many only allow pets to go in the hold, if they allow them on the plane at all. Putting your pet into the hold is something many pet owners are incredibly reluctant to do – many don’t even like the idea of putting their pet in a carrier for that long. All of this makes the move to Portugal incredibly stressful for pets, but perhaps even more so for their owners.

If you can’t find a pet-friendly airline, there is another solution: charter a plane yourself.  This is exactly what Michelle Lowther and her cats, Blue and Luke Skypaws, are doing. On October 14th, 2021, she, her cats, and a number of other pet owners are flying in a 12-seater Global Express Jet from EvoJets to take them from New Jersey to Lisbon. The cats will be in containers while the dogs will have the luxury of sitting on the floor or even on seats. 

Besides the benefit of being able to take her pets in the cabin, because it’s a charter flight, she only has to turn up at the airport 30 minutes before. If that sounds luxurious, it’s because it is. Chartering a flight isn’t as cheap as flying with a commercial airline and tickets will cost somewhere between $7,000 and $9,000 each, depending on whether they’re able to fill all the seats. 

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Michelle isn’t the first person to do this, and there’s already a popular Facebook group for pet owners, Chartered Air Travel with Pets, that want to do the same. Katia Ali, moderator of the group, recently flew from New York to Lisbon as part of a similar group. Her flight cost $9,500 per seat, which allowed for either two small pets or one large to medium-sized pet. Paperwork and vet fees added another $1,000 and she had the personal challenge of driving 35 hours to get to the airport as well. 

Pets onboard Katia’s flight from New York to Lisbon

Pre-boarding, the flight, and even immigration were all more relaxing than usual. They didn’t have to go through customs and, as they had pre-submitted their veterinary paperwork, all the vet in Portugal needed to do was scan the microchips. However, the trip wasn’t without its problems. One of the pets wasn’t able to board the flight as the ISO compliant microchip had been inserted after the rabies vaccine and not the other way around. Luckily, this was spotted before boarding in the US. Portugal doesn’t have quarantine facilities for pets that don’t meet the travel requirements, and it’s unclear what would have happened had they made it all the way there.

If you want to join Michelle’s flight, you can find it in the same group. Alternatively, you could organise your own. Be sure to consider the work involved, though: finding interested people and responding to questions (and often criticisms of the pricetag) takes a lot of work. 

Another option would be to bring your pets to Portugal on a cruise boat. Many transatlantic cruises, such as the Queen Mary, offer tickets for pets as well as humans and have luggage allowances that are better than a chartered flight. However, there’s often a long waiting list. Although it could be cheaper and even more luxurious than a private jet, if you need to move to Portugal quickly, a chartered flight could be a better option. 

11 thoughts on “Chartering A Flight to Bring Your Pets to Portugal”

  1. One last comment/question: How hard is it to find dog walkers and day sitters in either Lisbon or Porto. Thinking about dinners out and long weekends away, and a week to meet friends in another part of Europe.

    • Hi Nick,

      There are plenty of pet sitters and dog walkers in Lisbon and I'm sure it's similar in Porto. I'm not a pet owner so not sure if it works by the hour, but I know there are definitely overnight places.

      I used to be a pet sitter as well through sites like Trusted Housesitters where people petsit for free in return for free accommodation. This could be another option as I'm sure you'd have plenty of people who'd want to house sit in Lisbon or Porto.

  2. Interesting idea. I'll pitch it to the wife. Planning on flying NYC to Lisbon mid-June and coming back mid-August. I thought I would just to the paperwork and fly TAP or whatever airline. Didn't know some airlines wouldn't handle a small dog.

    Btw, if anyone can tell us whether we should rent in Lisbon or Porto, we're looking for advice. Need about 1200 square feet, airconditioned and have been checking out VRBO and others. But from previous stays in Europe, we know that pictures and detailsd can be deceiving. We're also not sure if Porto might be a little to quiet, even for a pair of 60 years old. Nice cafes near the place and brekky spots are important, as would be a view.

    • Hi Nick,

      I have only ever lived in Lisbon, but I've often thought about Porto. It's smaller, yes, but it's still a very nice city and Porto will have plenty of life to it in the summer. If you're unsure, Lisbon is a safer bet but I don't think you'll find Central Porto too quiet.

  3. Great article. We made our move from Arizona to Portugal by private jet with FXAir, the charter arm of FlexJets. We have 3 dogs- a large older 13 year old that we did not want to fly in cargo, a small dog with a lung disease (under control), and a puppy. Plus my 94 year old mother was also moving with my wife and I. Though it was terrible expensive (over six figures) the safety of flying private during the pandemic and the convenience and comfort for my mom and our dogs were justifiers in the decision. It also eliminated all the hassles of immigration and customs which we sped through when we landed. From plane to cars with dogs and luggage in about 15-20 minutes, including the vet check. We don’t regret it for a second. Actually one regret- flying first class will now be a let down. (Kidding!) Another option is to buy the entire first class section on Lufthansa. Dogs are allowed and can be out of crate. If you are departing from a Lufthansa gateway city in the US this may be an option for some. The catch is you fly to Frankfurt then a private plane from Frankfurt to Lisbon, Porto or Faro. Longer trip, but can be (somewhat) less expensive than a private charter under some conditions.

  4. The import requirements are that the ISO microchip (different from the ones usually used in the US) must be inserted first. Then all the subsequent vaccine records include the microchip number.

  5. Hi, thanks for the article. Can someone tell me more about the situation with the Chip/Vaccine? My dogs got the rabbies vaccine and Chip the same day.
    Thank you

    • I don't know either but my guess is they did these the same day as in the pet had never been microchipped before. I've had both my dogs microchipped for years and they get the rabies vaccine yearly.


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