Tue. May 24th, 2022


Hong Kongers leaving the increasingly isolated city are renting private jets for their pets – the only way many can take their animals with them, as pandemic restrictions are squeezing cargo space on commercial flights.

With the city’s zero Covid regime leading to rising freight rates and flight cancellations, people are grouping together to use private jets at a cost of about HK $ 200,000 ($ 25,665) for each owner with their pet, companies and individuals say.

“There’s a huge demand,” says Chris Phillips, pet and medical charter manager at Air Charter Service, a private jet broker. “People want to get their pets back [to their home countries], their cats and their dogs and their rabbits, and they just can not get them back via commercial routes. ”

Hong Kong authorities this month banned passenger flights from eight countries as part of the city’s strict coronavirus elimination policy, which has led to a spate of flight cancellations as airlines struggle to keep up with changing regulations.

The area’s strict quarantine regime is causing some expatriates to leave the city, while increasing numbers of locals are joining immigration schemes drawn up by the UK, Australia and Canada in the wake of political unrest in the Chinese territory in 2019.

Hong Kong’s efforts to eradicate the virus have spread to pets, with the government killed more than 1,000 hamsters this week and about 150 pet store visitors quarantined on fears of animal-to-human transmission.

Hong Kong’s population fell 1.2 percent in the first half of 2021, according to the latest census records. Those who can afford it take their pets with them, but it becomes increasingly difficult given the few flights, leading to the demand for private jets.

“There’s this new kind of wave of jet pool where people get together and try to find a date and say ‘right, we’re going on this day,'” said Philips of Air Charter Service.

Steve Pheby, a senior consultant at Ferndale Kennels and Cattery, said his business before the pandemic was usually evenly balanced between importing and exporting pets, but it was now 90-95 percent based on exports.

“We can not predict what the future will be like. . . “Every week we get a different airport that abandons the routes,” he said, adding that “quite a few people” were looking at the private jet option. He noted that it could cost up to HK $ 150,000 to transport a Labrador and its owner to the UK.

“The heartbreaking thing is. . .[for]many people, their dog is a member of their family, they pull the short straw by paying these extremely high rates, ”he said.

Pet Holidays, a Hong Kong-based company, said it had arranged 18 private jets for pet resettlement purposes last year, with flights flying mainly to the UK as well as Canada, Taiwan and Singapore, compared to zero in 2020. It is expected to continue 20 rent. private jets for pets this year, with about one-third of customers moving from commercial flights to hired services.

Ada Lo, of Dog Express, said the company has three private jet flights for pets planned for the UK in the coming months, while Gary Costello, of the UK pet travel operator PBS International Freight, which works with private jet companies, said the group saw “a huge increase” in demand from Hong Kongers.

Top Stars Air, a business aviation sales company, said it had arranged dozens of flights last year and now receives about 20 requests a day. It has a flight to London scheduled for next month for six people and seven pets, in which the jet from Dubai will fly in without the crew boarding, given Hong Kong’s strict quarantine requirements.

Annett Schirmer, a Hong Kong-based academic, said she plans to move to Europe in May and tried to arrange a flight for her three dogs and one cat through social media.

“Flights are canceled regularly [at] short notice which makes it very difficult as the pets have to have their paperwork and veterinary examinations done within a certain time frame relative to the flight, ”she said.



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