flying dogs - rules with layovers & cargo vs baggage
  • IliumIlium
    Posts: 69
    I'm not entirely sure where to put this since my questions are kind of multiple. I could use some feedback from those of you who have imported dogs from overseas.

    I'm looking into importing a Shikoku ken next summer from Japan. (Provided that everything works out anyway. Lots of what-ifs still on the horizon.) But one of the dilemmas I am facing is with picking a flight/airline. I'm probably going to have very limited choices, both because of summer heat restrictions with certain airlines and because there are just not that many that fly to my city's airport. In fact, there's only one airline that offers a direct flight: United. From the point of expense, this is less than ideal because United only allows animals to go by cargo now unless you have a service or emotional support animal exemption, which means paying a lot more money. But all of my other options will have layovers either in other countries or other states.

    My understanding is that layovers in other countries are okay as long as the layover isn't 24 hours or more (that is, the animal doesn't become subject to that country's import laws, but the destination country's). But I can't find any information about what happens if the layover is Stateside. Does anyone have any experience with this kind of situation? If I'm importing a dog to Texas, but I have a layover in say California or New York, what happens? Is my animal subject to CA or NY law as well as TX law, or just TX law? I think I've read that if the airlines switch, then I am subject to both airlines' rules and fees, but I can't seem to find any information about the layover situation. (For that matter: are animals that are "checked baggage" treated as normal checked baggage in this kind of situation? For normal checked baggage, I would be expected to personally pick up my bags and re-check them but not get them reinspected if I had a layover stateside. )

    Also, what are your feelings about a shorter, non-stop flight as cargo versus a flight with layovers but check in as baggage / carry on? Do you feel that one or the other would be less stressful to the dog? Obviously because of the size of the breed, it's unlikely that I'd be able to get away with carry-on unless it's a very young, small pup, but I figure the more information I have from people, the better.
    Post edited by Ilium at 2014-12-18 01:56:02
  • I would avoid layovers at all costs if possible. Not only does it increase the time the dog is crated without food, water, and chance to eliminate, but it increases likelihood of something going wrong. (Left on the airstrip, not checked on to the next flight, checked on the WRONG connecting flight, etc.)

    If your layover is in the US you will have to go through customs at the port of entry, ie. LAX or wherever. The dog and all of your stuff will be taken off the plane, inspected, cleared, and then loaded on to the next plane - you'll probably need 6 hours or so to do this comfortably at LAX. Its worth noting that a couple Nihon Ken have been lost at airports because they were taken out of their crate by strangers in a new, scary environment and escaped.

    A Shikoku, unless it is a baby (8-10 weeks), will not be able to fly in cabin - they're too big. Moreover, airlines do not allow in cabin pets for (most?) international flights. Not sure where you're coming from or to, but specifically, none of the flights crossing the Pacific can be in cabin.

    Excess baggage and cargo are identical in terms of where the dog's crate goes, how its cared for, etc. The difference is cargo pays by weight ($800+ depending on breed and age) whereas excess baggage is a flat fee ($150 to $300 depending on airline). Of course, pets as baggage you must also pay your round trip airfare, so there is that.

    Additionally, pets that are baggage will be picked up at the baggage claim with the rest of your luggage. Pets that are cargo have to go through customs and may required a customs broker with power of attorney and specialty in animals to get cleared through customs (when it happened to us, it was $200).
    「怪獣荘秋田犬」Kaiju Kennels Japanese Akita and Hokkaido, Claire Matthews
    Post edited by PoetikDragon at 2014-12-18 02:07:55
  • By the way, I refuse to fly United with pets whatsoever. Mainly because pets traveling with a ticketed passenger (excess baggage) still pay full cargo prices. This rule went into effect March of 2012 when we went to pick up Mosura (8 month JA) and Tachi (4 month JA) in person specifically to avoid paying cargo rates. We bought our tickets in November and only after much arguing with supervisors did we get an exception made for us. Otherwise, we would have had to pay $4,000 cash at the counter to get the dogs on the plane - or leave them behind in Japan with no one to take care of them (breeder was 400 miles away.) That is ON TOP OF the round trip airfare we'd already paid for ourselves, $1,400 for each.
    「怪獣荘秋田犬」Kaiju Kennels Japanese Akita and Hokkaido, Claire Matthews
  • LosechLosech
    Posts: 2082
    Conker has flown twice in cargo on Alaska airlines ($100 each way, if you flew with the dog. More if the dog was alone.) He was fine both times.
    I had a Kai Ken flown on United PetSafe, I think ($275). He didn't handle the trip so well...
    I flew my Mom's two dogs with PetSafe (about $360 each). I really was not satisfied with them. They were the cheapest (out of my airport) but had shoddy customer service and ended up charging my card twice and didn't refund my money until two months later and only after we had harassed them about it for weeks.
    My Laika flew in Delta Cargo, it wasn't cheap, but I liked it better than United.
    I think Katana was also flown on PetSafe as well? it could have been Delta... I'm not sure anymore since I do not have his paperwork. @TheWalrus might know, he arranged the flight for me. He'd be the guy to contact about shipping dogs from Japan.
    Post edited by Losech at 2014-12-18 02:46:40
  • aykayk
    Posts: 1979
    When Stacey had her layover flight within the US (Ohio to a smaller airport in southern CA), the airline had obviously taken out her adult Kai out of his crate without her present in order to place shredded paper inside. So too risky for my blood!
  • sjp051993sjp051993
    Posts: 1605
    I use to love flying pets with United. They were handled well and instructions were clearly followed. United has done away with its employees and everything is done through 3rd party sub contractors. I will not travel United anymore and I will not be flying any pets with United. My trip to ca and back with Ritsu was awful.
    Stacey living with Tora, Kazue, Ritsu and Kuma the Shiba

    DSCF0686IMG_0940 - Version 2DSCF0714IMG_1151

  • IliumIlium
    Posts: 69
    I guess you're right; reading a little more closely it looks like even the Japanese airlines would put the "checked baggage" animals in the cargo hold too. I thought I'd read that they wouldn't be, but maybe I just got confused looking at page after page. I actually talked to a person at United and they indicated that for an international flight I could have an animal as carry on, but maybe they didn't know what they were talking about. I definitely had a friend who flew with her cat in-cabin as carry-on a couple years ago. Perhaps I will ask her which airline she went with... (EDIT: I am actually hoping to get a young puppy, so that's why all the talk about in-cabin possibilities, but it's impossible to know how possible that will be this far out.)

    I am lucky in that my place of employment will be paying for my ticket. So, I don't have to worry about that. But... yes, the difference in fees are... undesirable, to say the least. :( I've been trying to budget for having to fly with the animal as cargo in the first place, but the safety concerns are a whole other matter that no amount of money/preparation can offset.

    Why did they want to charge you 4,000 dollars for the dogs? I thought that if they were by cargo, it was done by weight; did they really weigh that much? Definitely United's prices and policy are outrageous. However, they are literally my ONLY option to fly direct from either Narita into IAH in Houston(and for reasons beyond my control, I will probably *have* to land in Houston). :( So I'm not sure what I can do there....

    That's who I'm working with actually. :) Unfortunately, during the summer months Delta Airlines will not accept animals at all on their planes, and Alaska Airlines would definitely have transfers which worries me. Accidents involving dogs are relatively rare but... I still hate adding any more risk than necessary.

    Mostly I was hoping not to have to bother Shigeru again for a little while, but perhaps I will go ahead and email him sooner than later.

    Another tip against layovers/transfers. Thanks!

    I think to some degree I would be less worried about shipping an animal through United from Japan to America than in reverse. Work ethic here is super strong and it's very rare for your service to be bad. In all the years I've lived here, I've only had one package arrive with something obviously broken, and I've never seen anyone apologize to me as many times as the mail man did. Which isn't to say I'm not still worried about it, because an animal is not just a box or a piece of luggage, I'm just... slightly less worried. I do know that there are some actual companies that specifically do pet shipping, but I don't know much about them... I can't imagine, though, that they would be less expensive than the airlines.
    Post edited by Ilium at 2014-12-18 08:08:29
  • Why did they want to charge you 4,000 dollars for the dogs? I thought that if they were by cargo, it was done by weight; did they really weigh that much?

    Yes, it is by weight. One factor to keep in mind that people might not initially consider is the weight of the plastic crate counts as well. A puppy-sized 300 crate is ~15 lbs, an adult Shikoku or young/female JA sized 400 crate is ~20 lbs, and an adult/male JA sized 500 crate is ~30 lbs. So depending on the age and size of the dog, the crate can add 50% to 100% of the dog's weight. Plus bowls, water, food for a few more pounds - its all added in.

    It was $2,600 for the young adult and $1,400 for the puppy. Actually, that was quite generous considering the "puppy" was a big four month old male. I had paid $1,600 for a 10-week-old puppy to fly by cargo in 2011. After that, I vowed to only import dogs with a ticketed passenger - especially adults.

    As for your options - you could book your flights as two separate round trips. A round trip from Houston to Los Angeles and a round trip from Los Angeles to Japan. (I recommend Haneda over Narita.) You will have to pay the dog's baggage fee twice if you do it this way. However, it will let you have greater control and options for which airlines you cross the Pacific with and which you take to Houston. You wont have to deal with such a long direct flight for the dog, and can have a nice long window between flights if you choose to see to the dog's needs. Though, do be careful opening crates at the airport. LAX has a fenced dog potty area near the Bradley International terminal.
    「怪獣荘秋田犬」Kaiju Kennels Japanese Akita and Hokkaido, Claire Matthews
    Post edited by PoetikDragon at 2014-12-18 13:52:25
  • IliumIlium
    Posts: 69
    Ah! I hadn't realized the plastic crate's weight also counted. Suddenly it makes more sense. That's still an insane amount of money though. The whole 800/900+ thing… is insane. It sounds like you're saying that importing without a ticketed passenger as manifest cargo is even more expensive than shipping as cargo with a ticketed passenger? (Or am I misunderstanding?)

    My issue is my employer is paying for the flight, which is a one-way trip from Japan to America. I've been living and working here for several years now, and it's going to be time to go back to the States permanently. I wouldn't mind booking a round-trip flight, but it is technically illegal to do so if I'm just planning on going one-way. My employer tends to be very strict about following policies and even though buying round trip would probably cost them less, they will probably say no because of the legality stuff. It would cause a lot of unnecessary stress and drama to try to fight them on it.

    I'm actually looking into whether or not I could get a support animal dispensation. My doctor seems to think I could qualify and indicated a willingness to fill out the paperwork, and that would solve a lot of these problems.
  • Ahhh, I didn't realize that you only need a one-way flight. Still, what I said stands - you could buy it as two different flights/legs of the trip if you can't get the connecting airlines you want through the automated process.

    Something to consider is ANA. They're part of the Star Alliance with United and follow many of the same rules... BUT it seems ANA does NOT charge cargo rates when a dog is with a ticketed passenger, unlike United. We're flying back from Japan on ANA next month and were planning to bring puppies with us. Because ANA is operated by United in the US, you may be able to get connections on United flights to Houston or wherever you need to be.

    It sounds like you're saying that importing without a ticketed passenger as manifest cargo is even more expensive than shipping as cargo with a ticketed passenger? (Or am I misunderstanding?)

    Of course, airfare and cargo prices vary based on jet fuel, economy, how strong the yen is, and so forth. However, in general here is the ranking from least to most expensive. Note that the round trip items still assume the pet is only going on one leg of the trip, ie. from Japan to the US, not round trip itself.

    $ One-way ticketed passenger with flat pet baggage fee
    $$ Round-trip ticketed passenger with flat pet baggage fee (one-way for pet)
    $$ Unaccompanied cargo fee by weight
    $$$ One-way ticketed passenger with cargo fee by weight
    $$$$ Round-trip ticketed passenger with cargo fee by weight (one-way for pet)

    Note that a round trip ticket and pet fee may be slightly more or slightly less than shipping by cargo depending on how far in advance you buy your tickets and if you get a good deal. I've snagged a round trip ticket for as low as $835 before plus $175 for the pet - a huge savings! But another time, due to time constraints, the best I could manage was a $1,600 airfare plus $175 for the pet.

    1. pet fee < one way airfare < round trip airfare < cargo
    2. pet fee + round trip airfare ≈ cargo

    We know that...

    pet fee + one way airfaire < cargo

    pet fee + one way airfare < pet fee + round trip airfare

    pet fee + round trip airfare < cargo + one way airfare

    cargo + one way airfare < cargo + round trip airfare
    「怪獣荘秋田犬」Kaiju Kennels Japanese Akita and Hokkaido, Claire Matthews
    Post edited by PoetikDragon at 2014-12-18 20:02:20
  • IliumIlium
    Posts: 69
    Yes, ANA is one of the alternatives I've been trying to find. In a lot of my searches, they've only been popping up as ANA but United operated. They do have United connections after, but… wouldn't the connecting flights then switch to the new operator's policy? (Which would mean into cargo / cargo pricing)

    Your idea about searching for them as one way flights with separate final destinations and buying them like that if an interesting idea, and I'll definitely look into it. It might not be feasible. Believe it or not, based on the searches that I and another girl who will be moving back at the same time as me have been doing, just the single one way flight is looking like it will be between 4,000 and 6,000 dollars (which is just utter INSANITY but apparently is very common for one way international flights). There may be cheaper options that exist by taking something like Korean Air or China Airlines but I refuse to fly through Korea again and since many of those airlines will have a layover in a foreign country I am quite leery of that.

    If I ended up with two one way flights that were significantly more expensive than the already horrendously expensive price I'm looking at, I'm certain my employer would object. They're so strict they may object anyway, but I should at least explore all of my options.
  • IliumIlium
    Posts: 69
    (We're kind of hoping that maybe the prices for tickets will fall after the holiday season, but we've been forbidden from buying tickets until the new fiscal year starts in April, so by then July flights may be getting expensive again. :/ It's hard to tell.)
    Post edited by Ilium at 2014-12-19 01:27:43
  • BootzBootz
    Posts: 151
    Chiming in about flight tickets, from my experience, buying it 6 months out do you no good. I did they for my tickets from the US to Haneda. Out if curiousity I checked flights again 2 months prior to my trip and they were still the same.... If anything more options popped up. I flew in April.

    Most of my friends and family who fly international buy 2 months in advance, 3 months at the earliest but never more. They noticed the same thing as I mentioned above.
  • IliumIlium
    Posts: 69
    Yeah, it's pretty typical to buy tickets 2-3 months before, and not too much earlier. We can't buy anything until April at the earliest, so that's not so much the issue at the moment. Hopefully the additional options that should appear will help, but I have to avoid airlines that won't take pets/won't accept them during the summer months, so we'll see. Thanks for your input though, it's much appreciated!

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