Moving abroad with my piggies : My experience with United

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Post   » Thu Feb 09, 2017 9:16 am

Hello everyone,
I created a post a few months back on this forum when planning my piggies' journey from Miami to Paris, France. At the time, I was discussing which airline to use to fly them in cargo (since it's the only possibility when you want to travel abroad with guinea pigs). I ended up choosing United to fly Grumpy and Harvey to France. I thought it might be useful to share my experience with this crazy journey since I am sure it will help someone someday.

My piggies arrived safe and sound in Paris and for this, I am very grateful. United was very efficient when it came to flying the piggies. But I still have some things to say about United and the Petsafe program. In preparation for their flight, I called their customer service a good amount of times to make sure I was meeting the kennel requirements and the certificate requirements. Now, be aware that when it comes to exotic pets, these people have no idea what the regulations are. I was given conflicting information from start to finish and the whole process ended up being extremely stressful.

I wanted Grumpy and Harvey to travel in the same container if possible. I was told by United that it was not a problem. I was relieved and bought a medium size kennel from Petmate on amazon. I started training them to stay in the kennel for several hours at a time and they were doing just fine. Their journey was quite a long one, 15 hours total, from Fort Lauderdale cargo facility to Newark and then to Paris.

The kennel needed to be modified to meet the requirements : we had to replace the plastic nuts and bolts that were holding the top and bottom of the kennel together by metal ones, we had to place wire mesh over the ventilations and the door, we had to make the flood of the kennel non-slip (I ended up sticking the fleece I used to line the bottom of the kennel with sticky velcro) and finally we had to install metal dishes for food and water on the inside of the container's door. The day of their flight everything was ready and we drove up to the United cargo facility in Fort Lauderdale. They weighed the kennel, I paid $216 for their flight.

But then something happened. One of the supervisors made a phone call to know if I could place a water bottle instead of a water dish in the kennel. He got told that it was fine BUT what was not fine was for my guinea pigs to travel in the same kennel. They needed to travel in two separate kennels. I was already nervous to let my babies fly on their own to a foreign country, but when he told me that, my blood started to boil. I was told a few weeks before that that they could travel together and I had an email to prove it. What happened is that we had to rebook the flight for the next day since I wouldn't have had the time to modify two kennels in time.

I had to buy two new small kennels. I couldn't use the one I already had because it is considered too big for a single guinea pig. It costed me $150. Back at home, we had to modify the two kennels the exact same way that we modified the big one: metal nuts and bolts, wired mesh on ventilations and door, we stuck some fleece to the floor, we placed a metal dish and a water bottle on the inside of the door. We filled each dish with pellets, placed a bag of pellets on the outside of the kennel in case their dishes needed to be refilled, placed a picture of each guinea pig on the top of their kennels, attached their health certificate to the handle of the kennel. The next day, we arrived 3 hours before their flight. The kennels were weighed, we had to pay a $75 supplement fee on what we had already paid the day before.

Before they took them away, I gave each piggy some veggies and they were on their way. Hay is not accepted for international flights so they had no hay for 15 hours. I was able to follow their journey thanks to the tracking tool on the United Cargo website. They arrived in Paris the next morning and were taken care of by a company called Goldenway Pets that I highly recommend if you are looking for someone to take care of the import part of the journey to Paris. They were extremely professional. My mom got to the airport and took the piggies home. They are now in their new cage eating, sleeping and running around. I will be joining them in Paris tomorrow, I cannot wait to see them!

To finish this long post, if you ever consider moving abroad with you guinea pigs, know that you cannot trust the United staff when it comes to regulations for guinea pigs so try to get your info from someone else if you want to use United. Know that it takes a lot of time and money (for the health certificates, USDA stamp, kennels, airplane tickets and the import it costed us around $1000) and that if you choose to do everything yourself without going through a pet relocation company, it's going to be stressful. But at the end of the day, I am glad we did it, I didn't want to leave my piggies behind, they are part of our little family and we couldn't imagine ourselves without them !

[Please break up long paragraphs for readability - Lynx]

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Post   » Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:45 am

Thanks for relating your experiences!

In the future, please break up long paragraphs so they are easier to read. I added 5 random paragraph breaks for improved readability.
Last edited by Lynx on Thu Feb 09, 2017 8:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Let Sleeping Pigs Lie

Post   » Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:57 pm

So glad that Grumpy and Harvey arrived safely!

I've included their journey on the Traveling with Guinea Pigs link. Thank you for sharing this valuable information. :)

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Post   » Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:07 am

Very interesting to know! Thanks! I looked into this in the past as well, from Brussels to Florida. All I can say is that you need everything in writing upfront.


Post   » Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:10 pm

Can you tell me what kind of cage did you use, and what kind of water bottle and also some more info about replacing plastic nuts and bolts with metal, and about the mesh. My piggy will be flying with Lufthansa and the only info I got from the airline is dimensions of the cage. She will get her certificate according to Italian requirements by usda certified vet 48hrs before flight. I was not aware that I should also think about customs since I expected I could just pick her up on the other end since on the same flight.


Post   » Mon Mar 15, 2021 7:44 pm

I'm trying to find a way to take my piggies with me for my trip from California to Asia later this year.
Does anyone have experience relating to this topic lately? I have been looking up multiple airlines in the U.S but it seems almost impossible..

Thank you!

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Post   » Mon Mar 15, 2021 8:25 pm

I realize this topic is four years old! Not sure anyone here has recently had to fly from California to Asia an time recently.

But I hope someone reading this has some ideas for you. You may need to contact individual airlines.

Most of these posts are even older than this one but you may get some ideas:

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Mon Mar 15, 2021 9:48 pm

Are you moving to Asia, or just vacationing?


Post   » Tue Mar 16, 2021 12:03 am

Hi Lynx, thanks for the comment. I will read it up!

Hi bpatters, I'm just vacationing. I am planning to stay at my parent's home for few months so I don't want my piggs to be left at my friends or pet hotel. I don't want to burden my friends but don't want to spend my arm and legs for the hotel lodging either.

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Tue Mar 16, 2021 12:19 am

Do not, repeat not, take your pigs to Asia just for a vacation. Traveling that far by plane is very hard on them, and will be far more expensive than boarding them. They can't fly in a plane cabin, so you have to make special arrangements for their transport. The paperwork involved in getting them into another country is a huge amount of work. They may have to be quarantined. You'll have difficulty finding hay and pellets. Please, for their sakes, leave them at home.

You can contact an exotic vet near you and see if one of their staff might pig sit for you.


Post   » Tue Mar 16, 2021 12:44 am

Hi bpatters.
Thanks for the comment. I hear your concern.
I have relocated with one of my piggies from NJ to CA and he did very well during the journey. (I used Frontier airline for taking him with me in a cabin. But I know it was possible because it was a domestic flight.) Also, I stayed in temporary housing for a month, which was not the ideal situation for a pig but he did very well at that time as well. I was assuming that the longer trip would be tough but he will do well.
However, I found a guinea pig rescue that does boarding and they have reasonable rates. I will do consider boarding as you recommended! If I get to use them, I will leave a review. :)

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Post   » Tue Mar 16, 2021 10:51 am

A reputable rescue with a solid boarding program sounds like a good move. I hope all goes well for you!

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