PCS Season: Flying our Dog from Okinawa to the USA

Mark and I have an official flight. Tickets and everything! We are flying commercial, which I'm coming to learn may be much more pleasant than the AMC flight. However, when we got the news, I knew it was going to be a little more difficult to get Maylee's arrangements in order.

Below, you'll find my personal experience and findings throughout the process. If you've had a different experience please feel free to leave a comment below.

Initially, we were booked on a Delta flight. It was a wonderful flight - direct to our final destination from Tokyo. So dreamy! That quickly got squashed because we're traveling during one of the hottest months and Delta won't fly your pet if your departure or arrival location is hotter than 85 degrees. It was just too risky.

So, we re-booked through Sato Travel, the military travel agency, who made everything super easy for us. In the end, we have an extra layover in the mix but United does not have any weather restrictions. This fact alone made Mark and I much more comfortable.

I found this online and found it to be true. Please verify with your specific airline.

With the flight in order, the kennel regulations were our next task to battle. Our girl, Maylee, is a 21 pound "Oki Mix" with outrageously pointy ears! You see, the airlines base the size of the kennel by height and weight. If your dog has erect ears, you have to count that in their height. Maylee gained nearly 3 inches because of those big ol', adorable, ears!!

I was very paranoid because United requires 3 inches above the highest point of your pet. Our little pup is in a large kennel (400 series), which is the biggest kennel that they allow to be used as "checked baggage" and I don't think it's exactly 3 inches between the top of her and the kennel. However, I think I read somewhere that it's typically for a Dalmatian or Lab. Ha! Needless to say, she has plenty of space!

The PetSafe representatives are amazing! I called with a laundry list of questions and the woman I spoke to was so patient. She confirmed Maylee on the flight from Tokyo to our final destination and assured me that she thought that our kennel was well within her needs.

She didn't ask me for specifics regarding our orders, but I do know that United only allows pets to be checked as baggage when you have them. Be sure to have all of that information ready, in case they need it. 

We are flying via United, but they operate through ANA here in Okinawa. So, our first leg is handled a little differently than the rest. The travel agency confirmed Maylee on the ANA flight from Okinawa to Tokyo, but I'll be reconfirming all of this when its closer to our fly date. We'll pay for each leg upon checking in. We've been told to expect about 5,000 yen from here to Tokyo and it's a 30,000-ish flat fee from Tokyo to the states. From what I've read, these fees can be paid for via credit card.

In her kennel, she can only have something absorbent - a small blanket or pad. Otherwise, her food/water dishes are the only items allowed and they have to be attached on the inside of the metal door. We were planning on getting her a hamster-style water dish to avoid it spilling, but they aren't allowed. Instead, we'll freeze the water beforehand with hopes that it will last longer and not splash all over her throughout the trip.

The last thing that we have to do before we can fly is get Maylee and her kennel inspected by Animal Quarantine Services. Above is the information sheet regarding what you need to bring and where the office is. It's located at the Naha Airport, next to the international terminal.

We can take her to the quarantine office as soon as we get the health certificate. I'm sure I'll have nightmares about it until it's completed. Right now all I can think of is, "it'll probably be some 3-day Japanese holiday and we'll be up the creek without a paddle." I'm so optimistic, huh?!

In all honesty, I think we're going to be just fine. People do this all of the time, right?! To insure that we are prepared for the worst, Mark and I plan to get a POA drafted for someone. That way we have peace of mind if we have to get on the flight without her. That's the absolute worst case scenario, but we want to be ready for it. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

USA, here we come! Well, in a few months...

Sato Travel, Okinawa: 855-431-7702
United PetSafe: 800-575-3335

Maylee's Checklist
  • Rabies certificate must be done within a year
    • No vaccines done within 30 days of your flight
  • Health certificate (DD Form 2209)
    • Only is valid for 10 days. Recommended to get it within 3-4 days of your flight window, in case of delays.
  • Her quarantine tag from AQS
  • Water and food dish attached to the inside of the metal door - must be able to be filled from the outside.
  • A clear pocket taped to the top of the kennel with any POA information, orders, original rabies and health certificates, quarantine tags from Naha, and contact information.
  • Optional (if flying United)
    • Sandwich bag of food taped to the outside of the kennel
      • They have food, in case of circumstances where you cannot reach your pet.
    • Live Animal Sticker and Baggage Tag
      • United offers these upon check-in, according to the PetSafe representative
    •  Pet "Bio" - a typed paper with name, any allergies, demeanor, etc...

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