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

Press release   •   Nov 30, 2016 08:30 GMT

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

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 Abrahamto 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, most comfortable and affordable option for customers and their pets heading off for Christmas.”


Notes to Editors

Research conducted between 11– 17 November 2016 by One Poll, polling 2,000 adults

*Example costs associated with travelling with your pet

Pet Costs Associated with travel Flying Travelling by train
Transporting medium sized dog from London Heathrow airport to Edinburgh airport
(inc. transportation crate, airway bill, handling)
£1020 Free
Fit to fly letter £250 Not required
Immunisations and microchip £200 Not required

NOTE: Transporting pets to and from airport is an additional cost that has not been accounted for here

These example costs were calculated based on an average price quoted by freight companies which are responsible for the transportation of pets on UK domestic flights, including budget airlines that permit pet travel. While freight companies manage the process, the pet travels on the same domestic flight as its owner

No pets other than assistance dogs can travel in an aircraft cabin on domestic flights in the UK

Costs are based on a central London to major Scottish airport trip for a medium sized dog

Costs will vary depending on travel distance, pick up and drop off location, pet type and breed, crate size, pet health and if boarding is required (assistance dogs only)

Costs were quoted in November 2016

**Figure based on RSPCA pet owning population figure from 2015 of 15 million

About Virgin Trains:

Stagecoach and Virgin are working in partnership to operate the East Coast and West Coast inter-city routes under the Virgin Trains brand. Together, they are on track to revolutionise rail travel across the UK.

The combined network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, York and London.

Virgin Trains is committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains as one of the top long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.

On the East Coast route, £140m is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience. We have already invested £21m to completely revamp our existing fleet and customers can now benefit from 42 additional services (22,000 extra seats) per week between Edinburgh and London. 2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi.

The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo - from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.

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