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My experience flying with my pet from JFK to LHR

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  • My experience flying with my pet from JFK to LHR

    Iím posting this in the hope that the information can help someone traveling from New York to London with a pet in the future.
    As you may have read here:
    pets must travel to the UK as CARGO, no way to get them in the cabin, even if you say they are emotional support animals. Only service animals are allowed in the cabin. After calling all the airlines that fly direct between New York and London, and that are listed here:
    my options were narrowed down to three:
    - British Airways
    - Virgin Atlantic
    - United Airlines
    I received the best phone service and information on Virgin Atlantic. In addition, BA does not book pet travel directly. You have to hire a IATA-authorized third-party company that will book the pet in with IAG Cargo, which operates cargo for BA. This adds up to the cost significantly. I got two quotes in the order of $2000 or more depending of the service.
    I decided to book my trip with Virgin Atlantic, which transports pets only in the 7:30 pm flight and charged me $975. The cost depends on the crate dimensions, and I have a large cat. I had an overall good experience with them, my cat arrived well.
    As soon as a booked the trip they sent me a package with information and documents to fill in. I followed the instructions from DEFRA, but I still encountered some problems. I picked a vet at the Animal Medical Center on 62nd St, who is certified and claimed had 9 years of experience with pet travel documents. After getting the health certificate I went to the USDA office in Jamaica-Queens to get it stamped and I was told by a stern officer that the certificate had to be initialized on every page by the vet, and that the vet also had to cross-out the non-relevant sections on page 2 and initialize that too. The USDA officer did this for me so that I didnít have to go back to the vet.
    A few days before travel, Virgin Atlantic offered me to do a pre-check-in of my pet at the Animal Reception Center in Heathrow Airport. I sent them all the scanned documents. The Animal Reception Center said that the health certificate was missing the vaccine name (only the maker was indicated), so I had to go back to the vet to add it. They also requested the vaccination certificate, which I don't think was on the list of documents, so I hadnít paid particular attention to it. After scanning and sending it to them, they got back to me saying that it was missing the microchip number. This meant a second, last-minute, trip to the vet on the day of travel. The vaccine name and the microchip number were stated in various other documents, but they had to be present in those too. After this they approved all the documents and pre-checked my cat. I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU ASK YOUR AIRLINE TO DO THIS PRE-CHECK-IN WITH THE ANIMAL RECEPTION CENTER AT LHR, IT SAVED ME A LOT OF TROUBLE AND TIME. The processing times at the Animal Reception Center in LHR were 4-5 hs for animals arriving outside of the EU, but it took me 1h 20 min to get my cat because of this pre-check in. The Animal Reception Center also sent me through Virgin a CHECKLIST and a few images of how the certificate has to be filled in. Unfortunately they sent it to me on the day of travel, so ask your airline or the Animal Reception Center to send that to you that in advance. I wish I had known about this pre-check in and checklist when I started the process.
    I bought the Petmate Sky kennel with separate metal hardware and it worked really well. Itís sturdy and compliant with Virgin Atlantic at least. The only thing that they didnít like was that the water trays could be knocked off, so they secured them to the door themselves.