This story has been updated to reflect that the previously reported steep price hikes were the result of a currency conversion error on Qatar Airways site.
An apparent five-fold increase in the cost of flying pets from Doha to the Americas by Qatar Airways was in fact an “exchange rate error” and the price has gone up by hundreds, not thousands of riyals, the airline has said.
Meanwhile, the pricing scheme to travel with animals in other parts of the world dropped significantly.
Yesterday and earlier today, updated information posted on the airline’s website showed that the cost of transporting a large animal in the hold, such as a dog weighing between 25kg and 32kg from Qatar to the Americas, as well as Japan, Australia and Korea, had increased from around QR900 to QR4,500.
This spurred concern from animal lovers that more dogs and cats would be dumped on the streets of Qatar this summer by residents unwilling or unable to pay the fees.
Pet lovers due to fly with animals told Doha News that they had not been contacted by Qatar Airways to tell them about the fee increases, and only discovered the new prices while searching for information online.
Later this afternoon, the prices on Qatar Airways’ website changed, and a spokesman for the airline told Doha News that there had been an “exchange rate calculation error.”
In a statement, he said:
“The published prices were correct in USD, but an exchange rate calculation error meant the QAR prices were incorrectly showing. However, this has now been rectified and the new discounted prices are showing in both currencies.”
Under the latest pricing structure, this means that costs for sending pets to the Americas have increased nearly 40 percent, now standing at QR920 for a small animal (up to 15kg), QR1,100 for a pet up to 25kg and QR1,280 for a large pet, up to a maximum weight of 32kg.
Previously, the cost for sending a large dog to the US was around QR900, animal experts and volunteers told Doha News.
The spokesman added that the airline had recently revised its costs for flying animals in the hold, and made it simpler and more standard internationally.
Previously it had different ways of working out the cost, with animals heading for the Americas priced on a flat rate, while destinations in the rest of the world were measured by weight.
Meanwhile, under the new system, the cost for many pets traveling to destinations outside of the Americas has been reduced, the spokesman said.
“As part of this new structure, nine of the original 10 categories have had their prices reduced by between 25% and 40% – for example, shipping a 25kg pet to Australia previously cost QAR4,500. Now it will cost QAR2,700. Similarly, shipping a 32kg pet to Africa, Europe or the Far East previously cost QAR3,200 – now it will cost QAR2,500.
“The only increase is for pets traveling to the US, where the previous flat rate has been replaced by the new pricing structure to bring it into line with our overall global rates,” he added.
As summer approaches, many pet owners traditionally take their animals with them when they go on vacation. It is also a time when lots of residents who repatriate or move abroad to new postings travel with animals.
However, pet experts in Qatar had expressed concern that higher prices would discourage residents from exporting their pets, and choose to abandon them instead.
Stray animals, particularly cats and dogs, are a significant and ongoing issue in Qatar. Many volunteer groups have stepped in to provide foster care and shelters for them, but all appear to be operating at capacity and have said they cannot cope with taking in more abandoned pets.
Animal relocation expert Nicky Roffey, who runs the company Qatar Pet Travel, said that other airlines operating through Doha charge more moderate costs for animal travel.
For example, an initial online search of the cost of flying an animal in the hold on KLM from Doha to Houston showed a price of US$200 (approximately QR728) for a pet weighing up to 75kg.