Pet relocation is a very tricky, yet highly sought after, corner of the market. With Covid restrictions, cancelled flights, increases in costs…..not to mention fake relocation companies that have taken people’s deposits…...it has become a very stressful process for many.
We sat down with Jenny from Relopaws to find out the pitfalls and seek her advice for anyone looking to relocate their pets, ideally avoiding some of the stress!!
How long have you been in business in HK?
I’ve been moving pets for almost 15yrs. Relopaws is just over 9yrs old. It’s just me in Hong Kong and I have always worked here, flying pets (both cats and dogs) all over the world.
What made you get into pet relocation services?
I started working for a household relocation company, they wanted to move into the pet space and I was asked to start that division. There was a restructure after a while, so I decided to set up Relopaws off the back off that division’s success. I had learned it on the job and built it from scratch, so I was keen to keep the business/operations alive.
What are the most common questions you get from ppl/customers?
- How much will this cost? – so many factors that come in to play with the cost of relocation and not made easier by Covid! Freight rates have increased by 10x. Cathay Pacific minimum charge per dog (as of today) is 35k, compared to the normal rate of $200/kg of the dog…so, there are elevated costs to consider and there is no set price to offer but know that, while more expensive currently, it is still manageable and there are ways to avoid the premium prices.
- What is volumetric weight? – This term will come up as soon as you start looking into relocation, so good to be in the know early! This is how the airline charge, rather than normal weight. VW is calculated by (length x width x height)/6000. So, emphasis is far more on the space being taken up by the crate, rather than the weight of the dog.
- Cargo vs Excess Baggage - Excess Baggage basically means that your dog is connected to your flight ticket, you check in together at the airport and you pay the fees connected to that airline/flight…..this is much cheaper! However, not all places can accept dogs as excess baggage (Dubai, UK, Australia). Whereas, Cargo is the more expensive option, but pets are universally accepted. So, you will need to check with the airline if this is a possibility.
- Transport to the airport – This can sometimes be seen as a headache, when added to all the other stresses of travelling. I offer door to door service which means that your pet will be picked up from your home and I will check them in for you (if booked on as Cargo). If you have gone down the Excess Baggage route then you have the option to check them in yourself, or I can take care of it for you. One pointer on this though is to book them on as excess baggage when you book the ticket as seats and places are very scarce at the minute so, for peace of mind, add them to your ticket asap.
- What if it’s not a direct flight? – With your precious cargo in mind, a direct flight (and therefore a smaller amount of time in a crate) is always going to be the best option. But I have moved a number of pets to places like Canada, where a connecting flight is your only option. Lufthansa are great in this regard and offer ‘pet premium’ service for an extra $600 where, at any stopover in Frankfurt, the dogs will be taken off the plane, given space to run around, fed, watered, go to the toilet…. generally, relax…. before boarding the connecting flight.
- Is my relocation company trustworthy? All relocation companies should be an IPATA member (or working towards being a member) …. or should know what IPATA is when you speak to them!! Sadly, some bogus companies have been taking people’s deposits and then disappearing off the face of the planet. There will certainly be some that are doing right by their customers, but perhaps have not been added as a member yet, but just make sure to do your homework, as with anything important.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to relocate their pet?
- If using an agent, make sure you are using a reputable one
- Understand that times are difficult, flights will change and there may well be stresses – so plan ahead!
- Make sure all vaccinations are up to date asap
- Certain countries require tests (lots of them). Preparing for a flight to some countries can take 6-7 months, so don’t leave it too late!
- Ask questions!! Always ask questions, rather than ignore, even if they seem silly at the time, it’s much better than a surprise at the airport!
Are there any routes that have proven trickier/easier than others?
At the minute, everywhere is difficult…. especially The UK and Australia. UK – BA are not flying. Cathay, you can book to transport your pet but only if the owner is on the same flight. Australia – Qantas have stopped flying and there is very limited space with Cathay. Would love to offer an easier route, but right now…. they don’t exist.
How has Covid impacted Relopaws?
Certainly, been busier, which in any other circumstance would be a great thing for the business. But everything has become 10x harder and it’s not nice to see so many people leaving Hong Kong. Hopefully in the near future, I can get busy importing dogs to Hong Kong again!
If anyone would like to have a chat with Jenny to find out more about her services, please do so at +852 6485 0111 or firstname.lastname@example.org