Flying Horse Groom – Maybe The Best Job at KLM?

Whenever I tell people that I fly with horses, they often look at me as if I’m crazy. Then they start firing questions at me, some of which can be quite strange. For instance, whether horses can jump high enough to get aboard the plane. But also whether horses are afraid of flying. I especially love watching their expressions when I tell them the horses fly along with the passengers. They’re in the cabin, about three metres behind the last row. In addition to thousands of people, KLM also transports dozens of horses every week. To America and Asia, for instance.

Noor KLM horses

But how?!

Okay, let me start by answering that first question. No, they don’t jump on board. And no, they don’t have to wear special seatbelts. The horses are brought on board in special containers, which look a lot like rectangular trailers, which have room for two or three horses. Once they are in the container, they are loaded onto the aircraft. The container is placed on a hoist that lifts the horses up to the cabin. Once they are at the right height, the container is pushed on board. That’s all pretty easy to do, because there are special rollers on the floor of the cargo hold. Once the containers are in place, we secure them to the ground.

KLM cargo horse

Which aircraft type is used for horse transport?

The horses are transported aboard a Boeing 747 Combi, which has a cabin that is split into two sections. The front part is for passengers, while the rear is a cargo hold that can take up to seven containers.

There’s a door halfway the plane. If you go through that door, you walk into the big net within half a metre. We need to climb through this net to get to the horses and back into the cabin. The net is there for safety reasons.

We can take along a maximum of 20 horses. In the most aft part of the aircraft (the T position, as we call it), we can only accommodate two horses, because there are weight restrictions. We don’t always have horses there. Sometimes we transport cars or other types of cargo. We recently carried two pandas!

KLM cargo horse

Preparing for take-off

The transport agents usually arrange all the required documentation and veterinary reports for the horse and also bring the horses to the KLM Animal Hotel. Our job starts when we start loading the horse onto the plane. We are on site five hours before departure, so that we have plenty of time and can calmly prepare the horses for the flight. We also conduct various inspections, reading computer chips and checking the horses’ passports. And then the action really begins!

We ensure that there is plenty of feed and water on board for the horses, to see them through the flight. We work with a team of people that includes a number of flying grooms (the number varies depending on the number of containers) as well as an animal steward. You could say the latter is the captain of the flying horse grooms.

KLM cargo horse

Next time round, I’ll tell you more about the flight and the way it is experienced by the horses. And if you have a question, feel free to pose it in the comments section below this blog, and I will try to answer it as best I can!

Posted by:   Renée Penris  | 
Join the conversation Show comments


Do the horses get distressed?

E Dean Butler

Re. moving horses: Do they sometimes get “excited” when in the air? If so, what can you do about it? What about rough air? Can you get them to lie down, as opposed to standing?



Steve Raatz

I was on a flight to JFK and saw a beautiful horse peaking through the door. Do you know what KLM’s plans are all the beautiful 747’s are replaced? I wish KLM would acquire some of the 747-800’s.

Magda Bossert

Please elaborate on the boxes the horses fly in and how you keep a horse stable during lift off and landing, seeing that a horse is worth nothing if a leg would break.


Flying with horses would be the best thing I could ever imagine. I have had horses my whole Life and they are a true passion of mine. Flying is my life long dream, so much I even studied aviation! Combining these two passions almost sounds to good to be true for me.
I have spend a year at klm cargo as an intern in the office above the animal hotel. Every day I tried to catch a glimpse of the horses as they come and go. Unfortunately I didnt really had the time or change to have a conversation with anyone like you. But is there any possibility for me to do what you are doing? And what can I do to make that possible?


Hey Noor!

Very nice article with a lot of explanation and such a spectacular job you have!
I have a little question, I worked some time on the phase out of the Boeing 747s, and a question that once crossed my mind during my walk around in the AFT-section was: “which aircraft is going to replace the transport of horses?” I probably suspect the B747F… Unfortunately a little bit less exciting than having horses only 3 meters behind the back row! ;)


I want this job!!!

Jack Meyer

Nice to know, that KLM is so good for horses, what about their waste as if they eat, they must disgorge the waste, and does it not well smell a lot?

Fenny Drewes

I’ ve been horse groom several times for Nedpoint and I loved it! If there is ever an opportunity to make it my paid job I would be thrilled. Can you keep me posted on vacancies?


The agencies that organize the flights with KLM mostly provide the grooms. Only if there is nobody available KLM has to hire grooms. From KLM there is only a steward. Who is in charge of the horses and will tell the grooms what they have to do.
The best chance to fly with horses is to fly with your own horse or for an agency.


I just said to my partner, “somehow I’ve ended up reading an airplane blog?” ✈️

This was well written and fun and informative.

Thanks (I may need to become a regular KLM blog reader )


In 3 years time the last KLM 747 combi’s will be phased out, the only remaining KLM aircraft that can handle horse transport are the four KLM 747 full freighters, that will continue to fly a couple of years further.

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