We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

Level Contributor
5 posts
11 reviews
Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

Hi all,

On 2 December 2017 I am flying from Los Angeles, CA (LAX) to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL) with a layover in Tokyo, Japan (NRT - Narita). I will be flying with two cats who have proper documentation through the United States and Malaysia. I have some questions about transporting them from Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur.

My flight details are:

United Airlines

Depart: 02 December 2017 Los Angeles (LAX)

Arrive: 03 December 2017 Tokyo (NRT - Narita)

--6 hour layover--

Malaysia Airlines

Depart: 03 December 2017 Tokyo (NRT - Narita)

Arrive: 04 December 2017 4:30 AM Kuala Lumpur (KUL)

From Los Angeles to Tokyo the cats will travel through United Airlines pet cargo service PetSafe. Once they land in Tokyo I must pick them up and recheck them as cargo for my Malaysia Airlines flight so that they arrive in Kuala Lumpur when I do. Unfortunately, from my communication with Malaysia Airlines it seems they want me to check them in 5-hours in advance.

My concerns with this are:

A) deplaning in Tokyo and making my way to the pet cargo claim area, then reentering through security with the cats and rechecking them with Malaysia Airlines in an hour seems impossible. Malaysia Airlines made it seem like if I were a little under 5 hours it would be acceptable, but I'm worried about risking it.

B) The cats will be coming off of an 11 hour flight from LAX to NRT. I was hoping to find a family/single stall bathroom where I would let them out of their carriers for a bit while I cleaned out any accidents/cleaned up the cats/let them eat for a bit. I'm worried immediately checking them in 5 hours in advance for a 7 hour flight (from Narita to KL) will be detrimental to them.

C) I will be paying for United Airline's PetSafe service for the first leg of my flight, which is a fee based on animal weight and separate from my baggage. However, since I must recheck my baggage and the cats for Malaysia Airlines, I am assuming I must re-pay for all of my baggage. Malaysia Airlines customer service said that they do not differentiate between luggage and the cats as far as weight and fees go, so essentially I get 30 kilos for free and anything additional to that is $40 USD per kilo. Considering I will have ~100 lbs of luggage (I'm moving for a year-long assignment) and the cats and their carriers will weigh around 60 lbs., I'm looking at astronomical baggage fees for the flight from Narita to Kuala Lumpur. Is there any cheaper alternative to getting my luggage from NRT to KUL? I see in the "Top questions about Air Travel" FAQ they address the "most significant flight" loophole. Would that be applicable?

Any advice you all could offer on this front would be much appreciated!!

Additionally, I have already arranged my pet permit and booked my quarantine space in Kuala Lumpur. Once my flight arrives at KUL, where do I retrieve the cats? My flight will land at 4:30 AM, will I be able to pick them up outside of business hours? Are there any special rules regarding transferring them from the airport to the quarantine facility? Does anyone have experience with this?

Thank you in advance for any info you can provide!!

19 replies to this topic
Level Contributor
5 posts
11 reviews
1. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

EDIT:: Just got off the phone with United. They'll be sending my bags all the way through to KUL so I just have to recheck my cats, which should be within (or pretty close to) the 30 kilos for free Malaysia Airlines luggage allowance. Apparently the cargo facility where I pick them up in NRT is in terminal 1, which is where I will be landing. If that is the case, I'm wondering if I'll have to exit security all assuming MH's cargo facility is also post-security? Still concerned about my time.

United Kingdom
Level Contributor
17,638 posts
106 reviews
2. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?


If you ask your question in the Travelling With Pets Forum, perhaps people with some direct knowledge or experience could help you..

Here’s a link to that forum...


Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
40,862 posts
39 reviews
3. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

I am concerned with your plan to use a family/ single stall bathroom to let them run around and for you to clean their carriers. Those bathrooms are designed for handicapped individuals and for a parent to take a child, what do you propose these individual do while you let your cats have free time?

Maybe find out if there is a more appropriate place where you can do this!

I wander the world
Level Contributor
4,748 posts
25 reviews
4. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

This is a huge undertaking and I do hope it all goes well for you.

I too am concerned about you using public space for the cats to get out while you clean up after them. I understand you have no allergies to kitties but many people do. In such a confined space you could be creating a health hazard for others.

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
15,606 posts
312 reviews
5. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

Best travel wishes for you and your feline companions! Try asking on FlyerTalk forums for Japan and Kuala Lumpur and also United Airlines and Malaysia Airlines. They organize by airlines and by destinations. Maybe someone can help who has done it or knows how to find out.

There is some overlap in who reads those but it is good to cast your net widely with a specialized situation.

Edited: 23 November 2017, 11:47
Bangkok, Thailand
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
Level Contributor
15,829 posts
71 reviews
6. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?


In NRT, as is common, the public access cargo complex for both UA and MH, are landslide.

The complex has both a landslide acess point for customers (consigners) and receivers (consignees) to deliver and pick up there cargo... and an airside acess point which is restricted to employees and those who have the requesite airport security credentials..

Landslide is where you'd pick up pets and cargo.. and airside is where cargo is security screened (the screening of cargo is similar to baggage but slightly different) and prepared for aircraft loading.

In Narita, Japan quarantine will have been pre-alterted to your pet(s) and will have an adanvce copy/data of the required paperwork you will submit to the carrier at the time of original acceptance.

While in flight, Japan quarantine will, using the data received earlier, make a determination what type or intensity will your pets be subject to upon arrival.

On arrival, the Pet Safe team will retrieve your pets from the aircraft - they are loaded only in the rear most cargo compartment - known as the "manual" pit or "manual hold", which is far smaller than the two main cargo holds and odd shapes due to the airframe shape in the rear of the aircraft. Due to the shape, you can't use any kind of cargo container or other mechanized equipment to load/unload cargo into that section.

Once loaded the carriers will be "lashed" down to the floor board with approved hi-strength cables to prevent movent (this is Iike your seatbelt)

Other cargo is also secured to prevent shifting and damaged while in transit as well as to insure the kennels ventilation sides aren't blocked by shifting.

Once removed in NRT, Japan quarantine will either require UA to bring the animal to their airside office (they have two offices airside, one at each terminal) for arrival inspection and processing OR will allow the carrier to bring the pet to their own cargo complex and Japan quarantine officers will do their inspection at the carriers complex.

Both UA and DL do handle a fair number of pets daily in NRT since both are US flag carriers, they are usually how US military personnel fly when going to/from the US and any of the major US military facilities in Japan or the Rep of Korea. So, they'll be quite versed in the process.

MHs timeline isn't surprising as cargo - be that pets (which is more complex to receive and process for shipment) or normal "box" cargo - takes longer to receive, completed all the paperwork, get security screened and prepared for shipment and loading into the aircraft. So, I wouldn't expect or count on MH being "flexible" with their timeline.

Best of luck,

Travel Safe,

Level Contributor
5,003 posts
6 reviews
7. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

Don't do it. Your kitty's will never be the same, it's beyond a traumatic experience for them. Friends of mine moved from LA to Atlanta and their 2 lovely cats that used to be really nice cats were so disturbed one of them eventually had to be put down. My friends are SO regretful for have placing their own wished over the cats well being, and that was only a 4.5 hr flight.

The second one died a few months after with a bout of seizures. It was horrible.

I did fly 2.5 hrs with my cat when we moved house, it turned into a 14 hr nightmare with unforeseen delays and my kitty was affected, never very playful again, very subdued.. I should have driven, I just didn't foresee the damage the confinement and delays would have on her long term.

Penang Island...
Destination Expert
for Penang, Penang Island, George Town, Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi
Level Contributor
12,996 posts
209 reviews
8. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

As a cat owner, I'd say don't do it. 11 hours, then 6 hours, then 7 hours adds up to 24 hours of pure torture for them. It will be so traumatic and stressful that they may well not survive. Are you moving to KL for work? Could you rehome your cats until you return?

If you haven't seen it, look at the death rate of animals with United Airlines - https://www.marketwatch.com/story/united-air…

I wouldn't want my cats to add to those statistics.

Edited: 23 November 2017, 13:56
Level Contributor
3,761 posts
21 reviews
9. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

Do be sure to attend to (B). Our experience transferring a cat from intl-to-dom at IAD was that the 2nd airline refused to accept the "cargo" until it had been cleaned. Hope all goes well.

Penang Island...
Destination Expert
for Penang, Penang Island, George Town, Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi
Level Contributor
12,996 posts
209 reviews
10. Re: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?

I hope you are also aware of the extra regulations required by Malaysia, otherwise your cats could be in quarantine for up to 6 months....


https:/… which is an excellent up-to-date report by someone who imported from the USA last year

and the Malaysian regulations http://www.mm2h.gov.my/pdf/mm2h10.pdf

Presumably you will be living in an apartment so if your cats have been used to going out that will be another change for them. Outdoor cats do not live very long here I'm afraid.

Finally my understanding from friends is that you don't pick up the cats yourself and you won't see them until they've been settled into quarantine.

Edited: 23 November 2017, 16:31
Reply to: Traveling with cats as cargo, switch airlines, baggage fees?
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted