A Noah’s Ark-style flight from Australia to the US is being organised by pet parents desperate to get their cats and dogs home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The cost of the Boeing 747 private charter could exceed USD 1 million (AUD 1.5 million) with pet owners and other passengers on the flight splitting the cost.
Families, including Americans who were working in Australia but suddenly lost their jobs and visas when the crisis hit, were faced with the dilemma of not only packing up and moving back to the US but scrambling to get their pets home.
Airlines have shut down or substantially cut the number of flights from Australia to the US for human passengers and the pet owners say there are no commercial options for pets. Families were forced to leave their pets in Australia and fly to the US or stay in Australia and hope a flight opens up.
An “Americans With Pets Stuck in Australia” Facebook page was set up by US architect Justin Kearnan, who along with his fiancee Brenna Jewitt, were frustrated with attempts to get their Great Dane, Sundae, back to the US on a commercial flight.
Kearnan reached out to Brisbane-based Monarc Global. They are hoping to charter a Boeing 747, but need at least 300 to 400 people on the flight to book seats to keep costs down to around USD 2,500 to USD 5,500 (AUD 3,870 to AUD 8,530) each.
The cats and dogs may fly in the cabin with passengers.
Rodger and Brett Cambria moved from California to Melbourne 18 months ago with their five cats, including Queso, a three-legged ginger they saved from being euthanised.
Ms Cambria quit her job in early April just as the lockdown was starting and flights were being cancelled.
“We’ve been ready to return to the US for over a month, but don’t want to leave our animals behind and don’t want to place them in a kennel for an indeterminate amount of time,” Mr Cambria said. “So essentially, we are stuck here with no jobs and a sponsored work visa that is ticking down to its expiration date.”
Laura Read, an American living in Melbourne with her dogs Jet and Panda, was made redundant as COVID-19 rocked the economy.
“This means my visa expires 60 days after my last pay cheque and I must go back to the US,” Read said. “The problem is I will not leave without my pets, they are my family.”
The stranded include Australian Emma Chiu who was set to fly to New York with her cat Milo and reunite with her fiancee, a member of the US Navy.
“When I contacted the US consulate here they said unfortunately they couldn’t help since pets aren’t considered a citizen,” Chiu said.
“That was heartbreaking since pets are just like family and I can say my cat has been my best friend, especially during this pandemic,” Chiu said.
It’s tragic to see how then Covid-19 pandemic has affected the world. But at the same time, it’s great to see people working together to get their best friends home safe and sound via a charter plane. Sadly, many of the commercial airlines in Australia are not offering pet travel via planes, so it looks like those who were stranded with their pets got creative and came up with the fantastic idea of the charter plane.
Pets are part of the family too so it’s strange to see that there has been little help in expatriating pets, but hopefully a touching story like this will serve as a wake up call to those in charge to be able come up with more options to get man’s best friend back home with their parents.