Plan ahead when traveling with pets

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Plan ahead when traveling with pets

by: Lance Cpl. Brianna Turner, Marine Corps Installations Pacific | .
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published: December 01, 2012

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa, Japan -- Service members and status of forces agreement personnel traveling to and from Okinawa with pets are unable to use United Airlines' PetSafe program from Okinawa, via Guam and Hawaii; the service was discontinued Oct. 31.

United Airlines indefinitely suspended its twice-weekly flight from Okinawa to Guam due to lower than expected demand and high operating costs.

"Service members used the PetSafe program to fly their pets to their new home when they executed permanent change of station orders," said Glen L. Downes, the deputy director for the distribution management office, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.

"Using the program, passengers were to land in Guam and get on the next flight, but many ended up delayed in Guam until their pets met all of the requirements."

There are still a number of options for individuals to fly their pets to their next destination.

One option is the Air Mobility Command's Patriot Express, which takes passengers from Okinawa to Seattle, according to Downes.

The Air Force has specific requirements for transporting pets on the Patriot Express. Pet shipments must be in conjunction with a permanent change of station move, reservations must be made through the traveler's local transportation office, and only household cats and dogs are authorized. Once all the requirements for a pet have been satisfied, the passenger travel office on Camp Foster assists individuals in making travel arrangements for their pets.

A full fact sheet for traveling with pets via the Patriot Express can be found by clicking on the "Traveling with pets?" link at

Personnel booked on a commercial flight need to personally make travel reservations for pet transportation once their reservation is booked in the passenger travel office system. Personnel should contact the commercial airline they will travel on as soon as their ticket is booked to confirm any requirements or fees and arrange for transportation of their pets. Personnel should allow three days to receive a travel confirmation from the airline for their pet.

Personnel who are unable to use either of these two methods to transport their pet have another option to use when traveling from Okinawa.

"If you are unable to book your pet through the Patriot Express or a commercial carrier, another option is to use a cargo carrier, like Okinawa Air Cargo Service," said Downes.

In order to use the cargo service, personnel must bring their pet to the Okinawa Air Cargo Service office at the Naha Airport two weeks prior to departure to confirm the cage meets the service's requirements. The cage must allow the animal to fully stand and perform a 360-degree turn. Also needed are originals and three copies of the pet's rabies and health certificates and the individual's military travel orders.

Travelers should note that the Okinawa Air Cargo Service only ships animals to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago O'Hare and John F. Kennedy International Airports.

Regardless of which transportation method is used, it is important for service members and other SOFA personnel to begin planning for transporting their pets as soon as possible, according to Downes.

"It is the individual's responsibility to figure out which method is correct for their orders and start the process early," said Downes. "Through careful planning, service members and other SOFA personnel can make traveling with their pets a smooth and easy process."