How international pet transport to Australia has changed because of COVID-19

Aug 17 | 2021

Australia is one of the few countries that responded swiftly and effectively to the outbreak of COVID-19 from China and is also one of the few nations that is largely free of the virus.

COVID-19 delays pets moving to Australia

Extremely strict and mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine requirements have been in place for all returning citizens since March 2020 and currently, Australia’s border is effectively closed to non-citizens and non-residents.

The limited capacity of approved hotel quarantine facilities around the country has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of commercial airline flights into Australia since the pandemic began and whilst many expats wishing to return to Australia are being forced to wait months for seats, spare a thought for those wishing to return home with pets.

Grace Australia’s General Manager of Mobility, Jane Riley, reports of many returning expats and corporate transferees forced into emotional farewells, leaving their beloved animals with friends and relatives in the knowledge that it may be untold months before there is sufficient flight cargo capacity for their pets to arrive, undergo animal quarantine and be reunited with their owners.

According to Sally Graham, National Sales and Account Manager at Jetpets, many Australian families are experiencing major delays in transporting their pets. “Standard wait times for pets from the UK, Europe and North America ranges between 8-10 months. However, wait times from approved Asian countries are shorter, usually within 3-4 months.”

Sadly, this is not the case for pets from certain South America and certain Asian countries, where there are currently no transport options at all. Several Australian families have been forced to leave their pets with friends and/or delay their move altogether due to the lack of flights and travel restrictions.

“Last year, we saw a massive disparity between the space provided to us by our carriers and the demand from our clients,” said Sally. “This meant that pet transportation for particular destinations became more expensive than usual.” Thousands of flights to Australia were cancelled last year, and some international carriers are yet to increase their capacity. “Due to the lack of aircraft options and an increased demand for air freight services, we saw price increases from 20% to 300% for some remote locations around the world.”

Jane Riley said: “Our corporate mobility team at Grace is advising transferees with pets to consider what they are putting their pets through. If they are planning to stay in Australia for less than a year, they may want to reconsider bringing their pet. It may be best if they remain where they are, and for them to receive the care they need from a trusted friend or relative.”

But there are some happy endings. Jetpets has been able to reunite around 165 pets with their families, simply by thinking outside the square. They have arranged two bulk uplift flights from Canada to Australia, clearing a backlog of snub-nose and other breeds stuck in Canada, which allowed Australian pet owners to finally with reconnect with their beloved companions.

Sally and Jane both agree they love reuniting families with their pets, both before and during the pandemic, and hope to assist with more reunions throughout 2021 and beyond.

To learn more about the challenges faced by pet owning arrivals into Australia, listen to the Grace Always More Podcast episode 2, where Jane interviews Sally about all things pets and international transportation.