Pets' emigration costs surge following worldwide flight cancellations

Emigrating Hongkongers have to pay a fortune to send their pets overseas due to flight cancellations under the pandemic.

A pet shipping agency told Headline Daily, the sister publication of the Standard, that shipping a cat from Hong Kong to London now costs nearly HK$35,000, an increase of 80 percent than before the pandemic. Taking into consideration fees for vaccination and consultancy services, it would cost the owner nearly HK$55,000.

Under the emigration wave, the number of pets leaving Hong Kong has surged.

All pets are required to obtain an animal health certificate from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department before they can be shipped outside Hong Kong.

According to the department, over 8,100 such applications for cats and dogs have been submitted in the first 11 months last year -- more than double from the same period in 2020. The applications for birds also rose from five to 25.

Pet Travel said last year was the best year for the company since its opening, as many Hongkongers require its services when they move overseas with their pets.

A person-in-charge said that pets were usually shipped as cargo, but the current shortage of cargo flights has triggered an increase in prices.

When flights are canceled, owners also have to pay extra to redo parasite control documents for their pets.

The company also said that most airlines would turn back short-nosed pets such as pugs. Only a few airlines such as Emirates accept them.

"If the animals need to go to London, most of them have to transit in Europe. It would cost up to HK$60,000," he said.

He believed that business for this year would be similar to last year, but added that some people have recently moved back from the United Kingdom and need to send their pets back to Hong Kong.

As for the Omicron-related flight cancellations, he said airlines fix cargo prices quarterly, so the shipping cost is not greatly changed at this moment. But prices could go up for people who book the flights in February.

The founder of an immigration consultancy said that pets are part of the family for many people in Hong Kong: " One customer owns a bulldog which is too big for most airlines to ship. The family's emigration plan was delayed because of it.”