COVID-19 couldn’t stop us! Our Pet Travel victory story
Pauline Boydell, Pet Travel Executive
It was the beginning of March and we were frantically trying to get owners and their pets home, many of our clients had booked flights out of Vietnam trying to get home with their pets before the real effects of COVID-19 restrictions kicked in.
I was dealing with a lovely customer, and her two beautiful cats Mulder and Scully. They were all booked on a flight out of Saigon to get back to Washington DC to join the rest of the family, We had the crates bought and cats trained and comfortable in using them, we had just done the pre-travel Health Check and suddenly all the shutters started to come down. Flights were being canceled, Boarders were closing and live animal shipments were starting to be affected by flight and transit embargoes.
Our team took the decision to put all our moves on hold while we took a stock check of what is happening globally. Our main concern was the pets and making sure they would not get stuck anywhere. Being the only Vet in Saigon Accredited to IPATA – International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. We have access to resources globally and were able to get up to the minute updates on Flights, Borders, and other related News.
As someone who gets emotionally invested in all my pet relocations, whether it is just export paperwork or a full cargo relocation it was a hard time for me, I never want to say we cannot get a pet home…. So I would extensively research every day looking for any route, flights, road, rail… you name it, I was researching for all of our affected pet moves…
After a couple of weeks, we all felt very fortunate to be in Vietnam which as a country was doing a very intense but effective job of controlling COVID-19. Never at any point did the government restrict any pet movements in or out of Vietnam, so for me and my pet travel team, while working safely from home we still had access to all our resources and it became a case of working out what routes and options we had to start getting all our customer’s fur family members home.
For Mulder and Scully, I was working very closely with their mum. She had some personal needs to get to the USA safely and quickly as possible but she would not take any repatriation flight until she knew her fur babies were booked on a flight to get home to join her. It was my mission to work out a way so they could ALL get home safely and as soon as possible.
Every day I would read all the updates from the IPATA teams, I would speak to our logistics teams for updates of any cargo flights arriving into Vietnam or leaving, I would even start researching all the airlines directly for cargo schedules. After some time I finally found some routes from SGN (Saigon) to DXB (Dubai) Which is a major hub for Emirates Airlines who we use a lot for Pet relocation. Every day I would follow up for routes from DXB to IAD (Washington), in conjunction with working with the customer and investigating various repatriation flights from Saigon and Hanoi to see if we could get live animals on those.
Finally, there were flights for both legs of the journey, From Vietnam to Dubai and then Dubai to Washington DC, but Emirates was not allowing live animals to transit through Dubai. Our option would be to fly to Dubai, import into the country, and then export, unfortunately, The cats were not clinically prepared for entry so this was not an option.
Using our IPATA network I was able to get contact details of the Commercial Development Manager in Emirates Dubai Office. After several phone calls, emails and negotiations he agreed to provide approval for my two cats to transit through DXB (Dubai) Which meant I could get the cats home. There were some caveats around that, We had to book for additional cargo space in the cargo hold and we were advised the transit layover could be longer than normal due to the less frequency of flights but we finally had an option.
I researched the cargo schedule and chose the route that actually had a very small transit period, left Vietnam at a lovely time, and arrived in the afternoon to Washington where Human Daddy was waiting to be reunited with the cats.
My logistics partner was instructed to book and confirm my flights, They initially informed me that they were not allowed to book any live animals on that route, but with my approval from Emirates Dubai it took a few hours and we have the flights booked and confirmed for Mulder and Scully, It was a really happy moment, but I was not going to celebrate until they were on American Soil.
We are so lucky that we are just one part of a bigger team at Animal Doctors International, I was able to get Mulder and Scully in straight away for a Health Check with our vets, It also gives our Vets and team a chance to say a farewell to Mulder and Scully who they have been treating as clients for some time now.
As I mentioned I get very emotionally involved with all my moves so I always go to the customer’s home to pick up the pets on Travel Day. It can be very draining trying to stay professional and not get caught up in the emotions. But we finally got the cats all checked in at the Cargo Warehouse just as the heavens opened. As Always, I go with the logistics teams through the cargo facilities triple checking the paperwork and that the Travel Crates are secure and labeled and I always say last-minute farewells to the cats, I take a few photos so I can update the owners and then the cats head off to a climate-controlled room to await boarding.
Still no time for celebration yet, I send the full plan to the customer and tracking information and set my alarm for 2 am to wake up to make sure the cats have arrived in Dubai safely and are enjoying some time in the Dubai Pet Hotel. This is a compulsory stopover for all Cargo Transit pets with Emirates, They get time out of the travel cate, fresh food, water and a clean litter tray and a secure area to relax and nap before the next leg of the journey. Everyone gets updated and I go back to sleep.
The next day, it’s time to make sure the cats leave Dubai on time and make sure our import partner in Washington is all ready to receive and import the cats and drive them home… Another 1 am alarm clock so that I can see the flight arrival in Washington and check in with the agent to make sure cats are doing ok, and estimated importation time. 3 hours later, the cats are home, Everyone is updated and I am happy and tired but cannot sleep with all the excitement through me that we got the cats home super smoothly.
The best part of any pet relocation is photos of the pets once they have reached their home
It was such a win for Pet Travel, a win for the cats, a win for the customer and a win against COVID-19.