Military Transport is probably one of the cheapest methods of transporting your pet overseas. The most user friendly method is using the Patriot Express which is a regular route military planes use internationally to pick up and move personnel and equipment.
The Patriot Express
The Patriot Express is a Department of Defense chartered plane managed by the Air Mobility Command. Service members on PCS orders are authorized to transport their pets on these planes on a first come first serve basis. Your base transportation office (the same one coordinating your Household Goods Movement) should be able to make reservations up to 90 days out, but there are a limited number of pets positions and they tend to fill up fast, especially during the summer.
When I researched this book in Jan 2019, the Trans-Atlantic Patriot Express flights leave from Baltimore/Washington International Airport and travel to Ramstein, Germany and Incirlik, Turkey and then return to Ramstein, Germany and end in Baltimore/ Washington International Airport again. On 02Apr2019, there will be a test to change the Trans-Atlantic Patriot Express flights from Baltimore/Washington International Airport to Ramstein, Germany to Aviano, Italy to Qatar and return. This is currently on a trial basis twice a month, and if successful will be expanded as needed, potentially to weekly. Service members will have to check the AMC Travel page for updates on route changes and flight times
The Trans-Pacific Patriot Express flights leave from Seattle/ Tacoma International Airport and travel to Japan and Korea before returning to Seattle/ Tacoma International Airport. According to my research, AMC is not currently allowing Service Members to use the Trans-Pacific Patriot Express to transport pets to Korea.
The Patriot Express flights generally have up to 10 temperature controlled pet spaces available for cats and dogs. Depending on schedules, including the Patriot Express flights and other weekly movements, there can be as many as 40 allocations per week for pets flying Trans-Atlantic.
Small pets may fit under the seat in front of the passengers. In order to fit under the seat, pets must be able to fit comfortably in a crate (hard-sided or soft-sided) no larger than 20” long x 16” wide and 8” high in and the pets must be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around with normal posture and body movements (Some Military Service members I spoke to have been turned away from the airline on moving day because their dog’s ears touched the top of the crate or their tail touched the back when the dog was laying down, so double check your crate measurements and the airline requirements.).
All pet spaces are offered on a first come, first-served basis. To book a pet space, contact your local transportation office as soon as you receive your PCS orders. I made my reservations two months in advance and was told that depending on the month, they can fill up the day that the seats open (90 days in advance was the earliest you could reserve at the time I made my reservations).
There is a limit of two pets per family, though waivers are possible if space is available. Families with more than two pets cannot reserve additional space for the third pet until 15 days prior to the flight, at which time they can make a reservation through their transportation office. Owners must accompany pets on all military flights and pay the transport fees.
Some Military flights have similar breed restrictions as commercial airlines in addition to imposing a Summer Heat Embargo (May through to September) which will not permit Service Members to transport pets in the cargo compartment. However, most flights from BWI are climate controlled and can fly year round without restriction on breeds or air temperature.
When making arrangements to use military transportation, it is up to the Service member to make follow on arrangements to transport the pets to their final PCS location.
How to get to the Patriot Express
You will have to get your pets/ family to either Baltimore/ Washington International or Seattle/ Tacoma International Airport depending on which direction you are going. On my way to Italy, I arrived 2 months earlier unaccompanied. My family drove my POV to Atlanta (4 hour drive; the military paid me mileage at $.2/ mile according to Joint Travel Regulations in 2019) which has a Vehicle Processing Center and they turned my POV in there. Then, they took an Uber to the Atlanta airport and flew to Baltimore directly (the Military paid for my family to fly to Atlanta and I had to pay for my pets and make their reservations). Once in Baltimore, military transportation at my base had already made PCS reservations on the Patriot Express to Italy. I had to pay for the pets on the Patriot Express, but my family reservations were covered by the mlitary. At Aviano, I picked up my family in my POV that I had purchased in Italy.
So, you will have to use your imagination, friends, and family to figure out the best and cheapest way that works for your situation. Another option is to turn in your vehicle at the closest Vehicle Processing Center, then rent a car and drive to the nearest hub airport and turn in the rental at the airport. The military wouldn’t pay for your rental, but it would pay you mileage ($0.2/ mile in 2019 according to Joint Travel Regulations).
Most Common Problems When Traveling on Military Aircraft
- Pet documentation not prepared or incorrectly prepared, including country entrance requirements. Refer to your military vet (either at your current base or receiving base) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture webpage
- Pets are booked for in-cabin spaces, but the pets and/or crates are too large for in-cabin transport. Refer to the Space A FAQs sheet for pets and the Military Pet Brochure
- Pets exceeding the maximum weight including crate (150 lbs. for military aircraft)
Recommendations from AMC for Service Members Transporting Pets
- Provide a 20-day Transportation Performance Period to allow opportunity of multiple flights for booking
- Pet shipment is at traveler’s expense
- Only PCS passengers can transport pets
- Only cats and dogs can be transported
- Limit to two pets per family
- Each pet weight limit is 150 pounds with crate
- Owners must accompany their pets
- Consult Personal Property consignment Instruction Guide (https://move.mil/sme)
- Crates must allow pet to stand up, turn, and lie down with normal posture and movement
- In-cabin pet crate size cannot exceed 20” L x 16” W x 8.5” H
- Pet spaces are booked on a first come, first serve basis
- Some commercial airlines currently imposes 100 lbs pet weight restriction and curtails pet shipments during seasonal hot/cold conditions. Make appropriate pet reservations for any continuation flights.
- Updated Patriot Express and Pet Travel Brochures can be found on the AMC Travel Site under Travel Information at https://www.amc.af.mil/home/amc-travel-site.
Fees for pet transportation on military air are charged on a per crate basis depending on the combined weight of your pet AND crate and can vary from $125-$375. Your pet(s) and crate with combined weight ≤ 70 lbs will be charged as one piece of excess baggage. Pet(s) and crate with combined weight of 71-140 lbs will be charged as two pieces of excess baggage, pet(s) and crate weighing 141-150 lbs will be charged as three pieces of excess baggage. Pet(s) and crate weighing> 150 lbs will not be accepted for shipment under any circumstances. If ground time exceeds 2 hours, pets will be off-loaded and owners will be provided an opportunity to visit their pets. When passengers are allowed to disembark from an aircraft due to flight delay, pet owners will also be provided an opportunity to visit their pets in order to walk them and provide water.
Weight includes the pet and the container:
- Up to 70 pounds: $125
- 71 – 140 pounds: $250
- 141 – 150 pounds: $375
Remember that the military will pay for two additional pieces of checked baggage per PCS passenger, so while the military won’t pay for your pets specifically to travel, if you travel light on extra luggage, this might be rolled up into your excess luggage.
If PCSing to Germany there is currently (as of March 2015) a 55 Euro fee paid to the German Government upon claiming your pet/processing through customs. The fee applies to any arrivals in Germany (military or commercial).
AMC Crate Size And Weights Recommendations
- Be sure to use a U.S. Department of Agriculture Authorized Crate for Pet Transportation
- Crates must provide adequate ventilation on at least three sides
- Crates must be large enough for your pet to stand-up, turn around, and lie down with normal posture and body movement. Pets will not be accepted if containers are too small
- Two piece crates must be bolted together with metal nuts/ bolts, plastic/ nylon slides, clips, or screws/ bolts are not authorized
- Securing crate door with a zip tie is recommended for additional safety, but not required
- Soft sided pet carriers may be accepted for in-cabin movement only
In Keeping with major airline in-cabin crate requirements:
- Soft-sided crates should be constructed of leak-proof/ water repellent padded nylon with mesh ventilation on at least two sides
- Crate size must not exceed 20” LX 16” W C 8.5” H to ensure it will fit under the seat in front of you
- Several layers of newspaper, shredded paper. Or absorbent material should be placed in the bottom of all crates
- Do not use straw, hay, grass, wood shavings, sand or soil
Pets will be individually crated, however, two small animals older than 8 weeks and younger than 6 months old of the same species and comparable size, weighing less than 20 pounds each may be transported in the same crate as long as both can stand up, turn-around, and lie down with normal posture and body movement. If container does not meet requirements, you will be placed on duty standby under administrative hold until pet is travel ready.
Make sure your crate is airline approved for the military aircraft and any follow on aircraft you have to use.
The next post will cover traveling on Commercial Airlines with your pet to your next PCS location.
For more info on how to PCS Your Pets Overseas on commercial and military aircraft, check out my book PCS Your Pets Overseas, available on Amazon Kindle.
Additional Information and Links
Air Mobility Command – links to all passenger terminal Facebook pages
Air Mobility Command Pet Travel Page
Military Pet Brochure for flying pets – Apr 2018
Patriot Express FAQs
Space A FAQs
Pet Crate Sizes
United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
2019 DOD Mileage rates memo
Joint Travel Regulations
Pet Transport Information for Korea