Animal-loving Brits put pets before plans at Christmas as kennel costs, airfares and separation anxiety thwart yuletide travel


Pets on a train


  • Nearly half of UK pet owners have sacrificed or changed their plans for the sake of their pet
  • Cost of flying with pets from London to Scotland can reach almost £1,500*
  • Over half of pet owners (59 per cent) admit to avoiding travel to prevent separation anxiety
  • Owners hit with £100-plus per week bill to leave their pets behind

Thinking about flying with your pet this Christmas? New research from Virgin Trains suggests you should think again as the financial and emotional costs for owners and pets joining the big Christmas getaway are revealed. In Britain, nearly half of pet owners (47 per cent) have sought to avoid these and missed out on Christmas with family and friends from putting their pets’ needs first.

While the cost of flying with a pet between London and Scotland can add almost £1,500* to an airfare, which worries 28 per cent of owners, more concerning for them is their pets’ anxiety during the flight. Over half (56 per cent) admit they would fret about their pet getting stressed in an aircraft hold when travelling.

Leaving your furry friend behind isn’t cheap either. With boarding kennel costs, pet sitters’ fees and vets’ vaccination bills adding to anxiety about pining pets, it’s a dog’s life for the millions of pet owners in the UK** at this time of year.

Compounding this, nearly two-thirds (59 per cent) report separation anxiety when leaving their pets behind, 21 per cent cut their trip short, while over a quarter (27 per cent) have avoided travelling and pet sitting entirely, and asked friends and family to visit them instead.

Snakes on a train

Animal behaviour expert, Marc Abraham said: “Being apart from your pet can be a very stressful experience. Many people report suffering from anxiety when separated from their pet, making them reluctant to leave them over Christmas. When it comes to flying, our furry companions can also get a little anxious whilst in the hold and away from their owners, so it is always best to travel together if possible.”

Virgin Trains welcomes two dogs, cats or other small domestic animals with every customer on the east and west coast routes between London and Scotland at no extra cost.  The rail operator has worked with Marc Abraham to create some top tips on how owners can prepare themselves and their pets for travel over Christmas:

Prep your pet for long trips:

  • Take your pet on a series of short trips before covering long distances by train - animals will feel at ease in a train carriage if they have experienced practice rides
  • Ensure your pet is happy spending time in a travel carrier e.g. by placing their food dish inside the carrier and leaving them in the confined space for brief periods 

Provide identification for your pet

  • As well as ensuring your pet is micro-chipped for identification, buy a temporary travel tag for the duration of the train journey and carry a current photograph of your pet so that if you are separated they can be easily identified 

Pack a pet-friendly travel kit

  • Pack pet food, treats, bottled water, bedding, litter box, leash, and any necessary medications. Animals will also need a container to eat and drink from. Packing a few of your pet's favourite toys will comfort your animal, giving them something familiar to play with, reminding them of home  

Practise socialising your animal

  • Ensure your pet is used to busy places. Ideally, this should be done from a young age as socialising your pet develops their confidence in dealing with all types of new conditions
  • Get your pet used to new experiences they may encounter outside of the home and in a train carriage. This will teach them to be outgoing and friendly, compared to a lack of socialisation that may lead to anxiety and fear of the unknown

Graham Leech, Group Commercial Director of Virgin Trains, commented: “At Virgin Trains, we’re all about providing the best possible customer experience, whatever your species. We’ve welcomed cats, dogs, birds and even the odd snake on board, all with their owners of course! With frequent services between London and many destinations in Scotland, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, we believe we provide the happiest, mo

Latest News

View all

Virgin Trains customers can now bid for last-minute First Class upgrades in global first


The partnership is a world first for rail passengers and will enable more people than ever to enjoy the perks of First Class.

Virgin Trains accelerates journeys with eight-minute London-Scotland film


Virgin Trains has released speeded-up footage showing the incredible sights viewed from the drivers’ cab on some of its most scenic routes.

Virgin Trains adds extra trains and increases availability of its lowest fares at weekends


Virgin Trains today announced that customers can take advantage of even more trains on its east coast route and that it is increasing the number of affordable fares available on these services.