Sigma and the Trouble with Airlines

Let’s talk about international pet travel. First, in a word: frustration. Traveling with a large pet (i.e. one that does not make the cut as a carry on) is a nightmare. I’ve flown with my little one twice before, once from USA to Thailand and then from Thailand to S. Korea. Each time was stressful and I was worried that we would get rejected from travel. But, thankfully, that didn’t happen; her paperwork was accepted, the $250 extra luggage fee was charged, she whined in her crate, and before long we were on our way.

Waiting for test results at the animal hospital

Waiting for test results at our local animal hospital

But nothing has been easy this time around. Almost every western airline has a summer embargo in place for pet travel (cargo/checked baggage) to ensure the safety of animals. While this is a good thing– who doesn’t want their pet to survive the flight back home?!– it certainly makes things more difficult for Sigma and me. Furthermore, there are new restrictions being placed on so-called “snub nosed” dogs, of which Sigma happens to be a member. Now, I could go back home using an eastern airline, like Korean Air or Japan Air, as they don’t currently have summer embargoes in place on pet travel. BUT, when I tried to find a reasonably priced ticket back to Cleveland using one of these airlines, I couldn’t find any direct flights and there were no flights that were strictly Korean Air or Japan Air. This would have meant that ultimately I would have had to layover and change flights to a western airline where the summer embargoes are in effect. Complicated? Moderately. Annoying? Extremely.

Anyway, I thought that I had found some loophole through Delta and United via their websites so I gave  my boss the go-ahead to buy my ticket back home. Turns out that the “loophole” was not quite what I had thought and that I would ultimately have to ship Sigma home via a pet shipping company. Sigh. I am still waiting to hear back from East Asia Air Express Inc., the pet shipping company that I am working with, as they should email me my booking confirmation in the next day or so. But get this– they will be making Sigma stay in a pet motel in San Francisco because they can’t seem to find a flight back after her arrival time. So, yeah… expensive + even more expensive = Sydney crying.

While I wait for her airline reservation to go through, I have to ensure that all of her medical documentation gets completed. This, of course, is also incredibly tricky as there are time constraints as to when everything has to be done:

  1. Rabies vaccine at least 30 days before flight  (Check! ₩20,000) 
  2. Parvo and distemper tests within 10 days of the flight  (Check! ₩90,000) 
  3. Health inspection & rabies vaccination certificate issued within 7- 10 days of the flight  (Check! ₩30,000) 
  4. Quarantine office inspection within 4 days of flight
  5. Check in 2-4 hours early at airport to show health records, pay shipping fees, etc. for pet shipment
  6. Arrive in America and show more paperwork before ultimately reclaiming Sigma
Sigma's Official Health Certificate from S. Korea

Sigma’s Official Health Certificate from S. Korea

We’re seven days away from our departure time, so things really have to solidify this week.  Hopefully I’ll hear back from EAAE and things with the Quarantine office will pan out. Wish us luck, as we’re certainly going to need it!


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