End of Patriot Express flight to England bad news for pets
RAF MILDENHALL, England — For the money Tech Sgt. Jason Ellis will spend to ship two greyhounds back to the States from England, he nearly could buy all the tickets on a bus of the same name.
“It’s going to cost right around $4,000,” he said.
Ellis, a member of the 372nd Training Squadron, will transfer to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., next month, soon after the final flight of the Patriot Express that would have shipped Besom and Willow for a fraction of the cost, probably less than $300.
Shipping pets will become more difficult and expensive when the weekly Air Mobility Command flight from Baltimore to RAF Mildenhall ends after Oct. 1.
“A lot of Americans have saved up their money to take [their pets] on the rotator,” said Maggie Cottner, who is community relations advisor for the 100th Air Refueling Wing and part of a team assessing the impact of ending the flights.
She said the higher price charged by commercial airlines is only one problem. Airlines won’t ship pets during the hottest days of summer, which coincide with the military’s time of permanent changes of station.
“There are going to be three or four months right in the middle of our PCS season when they won’t take pets,” she said.
Cottner said the result of all this may be increased abandonment of pets.
David Newton, owner of a pet shipping service called Animal Air in Beck Row, near the base, said the cost of shipping pets to America is hard to pin down.
“It depends on the airline. It depends on the route. It depends on the destination. It depends on the size of the kennel [the shipping container],” he said. “There are a thousand things.”
However, he said, $800 will go a long way towards covering the cost. He said the rate Ellis was quoted seems extraordinarily high.
Newton explained the two ways to ship pets. One is called Pet Space, which ships a pet on its owners’ ticket. The pet inside its kennel is checked in at the same time luggage is checked.
This is the cheapest option, Newton said, and the animals will arrive at the same time as the owners. But, he said, it has disadvantages.
For one, an airline might not have space or have the personnel to give special care to the live cargo.
“You’re not paying for animal handling,” he said. Temperatures can become a factor, both at the departure and arrival ports.
The other option is independent shipping, he said.
“Pretty much, you get what you want, when you want it,” he said. “Disadvantages? It will cost you more money.”
Ellis feels a bit shellshocked at the moment. He rescued one his greyhounds after its racing career was over. The other had a disfigured foot and couldn’t race. Ellis and his wife saved them from possible death.
Having done that, he said, leaving them behind is not an option.
“I don’t think we ever worried about getting them back,” he said. “We’ve heard horror stories of military families leaving dogs behind. We adopted them, so we’ll take care of them.”