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]