US Coast Guardsman faces daunting $31,000 fee to fly her dog home from Japan after United policy change

Many airlines don't transport English mastiffs because of their size.

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Many airlines don’t transport English mastiffs because of their size.
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Claudio Gennari / Flickr

  • A US Coast Guardsman may have to pay $31,000 to fly her dog to the US from Japan, according to Stars and Stripes.
  • She sent the dog to Japan in 2016 on United Airlines, but United has temporarily stopped transporting pets in the cargo holds of its aircraft.
  • The 221-pound English mastiff needs a 100-pound carrier, making the combined weight heavier than what most airlines and transportation services allow.

A US Coast Guardsman named Jennifer McKay paid $3,200 to fly her dog to Japan from the US in 2016. Now, McKay could have to pay $31,000 to fly the 221-pound English mastiff home, according to Stars and Stripes.

McKay is stationed in western Tokyo, where United Airlines was her only affordable option to transport a 221-pound dog overseas. She starts a new assignment in Washington, DC, in June.

But on March 20, United said it would temporarily stop transporting pets in the cargo holds of its aircraft while it reviewed its PetSafe program. United expects to finish the review by May 1 but could not provide an update on its plans after that.

That leaves few options for McKay, who would have to transport the dog in a 100-pound carrier. The dog and its carrier are too heavy for most airlines and the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, which doesn’t transport pets and carriers with a combined weight of more than 150 pounds, Stars and Stripes reported. They also aren’t eligible for transportation through UPS or FedEx.

According to Stars and Stripes, McKay’s best option at this point is to send her dog home on a direct flight on Japan’s All Nippon Airways, which would charge $31,000.

McKay is hoping United will reinstate the PetSafe program after its review.

“I am a single-parent service member just trying to get home to the US with my dog and my son,” she told Stars and Stripes. “The alternative options to do this are financially unreasonable – but my dog is my family, and I won’t leave him behind.”

United launched the review of its pet-transport program after a series of dog-related mishaps this month. One dog died after being placed in an overhead bin, and two others were initially sent to incorrect destinations.