Why are cats and dogs fleeing Hong Kong by private jet?

Many Hong Kongers want to emigrate, but restrictions have made it increasingly difficult to take their pets on traditional flights .

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Cats Teddy and Newman will soon fly to the UK on a private jet, the only way their masters found to get them out of Hong Kong , due to draconian restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hong Kong is one of the last places in the world to cling to a “zero COVID ” policy and many are choosing to leave the financial hub, placed under severe restrictions due to the pandemic and where all opposition was suppressed by Beijing after pro-democracy demonstrations. of 2019.

Many airlines, discouraged by lengthy quarantines and other restrictions placed on their crews and passengers, have stopped serving Hong Kong .

Since December, the city has completely banned flights from eight countries, including France , the United Kingdom , Canada , Australia , and the United States .

According to the American Chamber of Commerce, more than 40% of expatriates, tired of this endless isolation, want to leave the city, and more than 25% of foreign companies are considering moving to another country.

‘Escaping’ Hong Kong with pets

Many of Hong Kong ‘s inhabitants also want to emigrate.

For Lee, a Hong Kong man about to move to the UK , the restrictions also meant he couldn’t take his beloved Teddy and Newman with him.

Because not only do the few commercial flights no longer have spaces available, but most airlines limit the number of animals that can be transported on each flight.

“It’s an exceptional situation,” explains Lee, who gave only his last name to AFP . “If it was just me and my wife traveling, of course we wouldn’t take a private jet. We do it just for our cats,” he adds.

Private jet charters, usually reserved for the ultra-rich, are increasingly appealing to pet owners eager to get out of Hong Kong without leaving their pets behind.

Flight suspensions imposed by the city in December left between 3,000 and 4,000 cats and dogs on the streets, according to estimates by Pet Holidays , a travel agency specializing in transporting animals.

A private flight for a cat and its owner costs an average of $23,100 at Pet Holidays , but the price depends on the size of the animal and the destination, says Fanny Liang, an animal migration consultant for the company.

Olga Radlynska, founder of the private airline Top Stars Air , says she has received dozens of phone calls in recent weeks from pet owners who want to leave Hong Kong with them.

“I can feel that people are desperate to leave,” he says. “Virtually all charter flights are one-way,” she points out.

 

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Top Stars Air , which charges a minimum of $19,700 each way, has already scheduled five private flights in February – to London, Singapore and Los Angeles – versus two flights a month last year on average.

Meanwhile, pet owners are trying to cut down on huge costs by finding travelers willing to share the jet in Facebook groups.

“Anyone know about a plane leaving Hong Kong for the UK next month? I ‘m trying to bring home two French bulldogs,” one netizen wrote on Jan. 13, adding the fingers crossed emoji.