For those of you coming to join us on our tropical island paradise, we hope Trish’s experience leaving Seattle will be helpful.  For another point of view, check out Crystal’s post HERE.


Well, we finally made it to Okinawa and I’m here to share what I learned that may help others.

Seattle Hotels: There are many cheap places to stay that are right across the street from the airport. Seriously, I mean within walking distance. All of the hotels provide shuttle service. Using the shuttle service will help you avoid having to listen to the cabbie tell you he is losing money by driving you across the street…

Places to eat: 13 Coins and Denny’s are 24 hours and within walking distance. We ate at a Chinese place in the Ramada Inn. Really delicious! If you don’t want to get a room, the USO is open 24 hours and has free food and snacks. But it looked like it gets packed quickly.

Flight to Oki Line

Pre-Flight:  People started to line up EARLY, really EARLY for the flight. The seats are first come first served. They do keep families together- seat wise and in the plane. If you are single and want to sit with a friend, line up next to that person. They weight EVERYTHING and count bags. Pets and kennel weight over 70lb is $112. If you take more than 2 bags a person, it’s $112. They will even ask you your weight. Can’t say that was most pleasant first thing in the morning! Then you will get a ticket, but the airport doesn’t open until around 5am or so. There is a 24-hour Starbucks and a Hudson News (in the baggage area).  There will be plenty of time to kill before the flight after you get your ticket. (That is when we decided to eat breakfast. We did go to 13 Coins. HUGE portions and really tasty.)

Flight to Oki Gate

Flight:  The seats are arranged in a 2-3-2 pattern. There is no “first class.” Everyone gets the same seat- a coach class leather seat with decent lumbar support. Yes, they recline, have a pillow and blanket on each seat. Kiddos get a little backpack with an old maid game and a coloring book. They show movies- adult and kid friendly. Headphones are supplied as well as a few music channels.

Food in Flight: The first flight has 2 snacks and 2 meals. Meal quality is coach, but it’s a meal and you get a hot towel. I’m not 100% exactly what each item we ate was called, but it wasn’t bad. I’d avoid the meat, but that’s just my preference. Beverage service is an entire can and they DO sell alcohol (beer, wine, liquor for $5). Beverages are coke products, Dr. Pepper, water, coffee, tea and juice.

Flight to Oki Fuji

Stop/Layover: The first stop for us was a long layover; bring all of your chargers to recharge your electronics. At the first stop, even after eating the entire flight, people were still hungry! You can exit the waiting area and go to a mini café and get food. They also sell sundries and packaged snack items. Bring Yen for the vending machines. At this point, people can walk their pet and sit outside for a little bit. There are telephones, phone calling cards and wifi in the terminal. The wifi is a little slow because everyone is on it, but pretty cool, none the less. Also, they have asked for no photographs of the flight line!

Flight to Oki Landing

Final:  Finally, landing in Okinawa! It takes a little time to get off the plane, so please be patient. It also takes time to get the bags, but the luggage carts are free!! Another tid bid no one told us is — they do randomly inspect bags for “illegal items.” Some of these items include — fruits, veggies, beef jerky (meat products), unlabeled medications/expired medications, pocket knife blades linger than 2.5 inches.  (Glad we ate the beef jerky!!)

All and all, it was a pleasant flight experience!


  1. We are leaving on the June 13 flight from Seattle Patriot Express. I assume this will mean that we arrive in Okinawa mid morning (?) on June 14. I am trying to do the math on this, but my brain is fried and need to know for TLF reservations.

    How long total is the flight from Seattle to Oki? Thank you!

    • Gray, you will not be in Oki until probably late evening on June 14. I took the Patriot Express here leaving EARLY on a Thursday and after the two layovers, we didn’t arrive until 9 or 10 p.m. Oki time Friday night. And seating for us was first come, first served.

  2. At what point do they tell you if you are flying Patriot Express? We are bringing our dog and cat, and I am concerned about not getting tickets far enough in advance to actually get them on the flight. We PCS in September, and I am also worried about sending my advance notification by the 40-days prior to PCS deadline, since I won’t know by that time what airline we are flying or airport we are flying into. All of you with experience with this, what should I expect, and what can I do to facilitate this process? Thanks so much- this post has been incredibly helpful!

    • As soon as you go into the travel office to book your tickets, they’ll tell you if you’re flying on the Patriot Express or not. Tell them that you will be traveling with a pet to make sure that they get your pet a spot on whichever mode of air travel you will be taking. Be ready to pay for your pet’s airfare on domestic flights and for either the Patriot Express or the commercial international flight- the military does not pay for pet travel. In the meantime, ensure you get all of their health certificates finished so that your pets don’t have to be put into quarantine when they get here. Make sure your sponsor knows that you will be arriving with pets so that they can reserve a boarding spot at the kennels for them.

  3. This could be a silly question, but how do you get your pets to Seattle?! We are supposed to PCS from Minot, ND to Oki at the beginning of 2013. The only option I can tell that we have is to drive to SeaTac if we fly patriot because there are no flights out of North Dakota that allow dogs on them. How do you get the option to fly commercial? We’re also going to be traveling with a potential 8 week old.

    • Margeaux- You’ll have to pay for pet fare on whatever airline you’re flying to Seattle. Why won’t the airlines in ND allow dogs on them? There must be one that will allow you to fly with pets. You’d have to talk to the person in the travel section who books your tickets if flying on a commercial flight is an option.

  4. We got orders to Oki and will be leaving this June. Unfortunately, we have been told that there is no space for our 2 dogs on an AMC flight and we will have to find other means to get them to Japan. They will not allow us to all fly commercial. I have checked the prices for flying them alone from NC to Okinawa and was quoted over 3 grand. I am looking into flying commercial alone with them and just meet my family in Japan. Anyone go through this process? It has been beyond stressful for me. I cannot fathom leaving them in the states for 3 years with anyone. I have begun the paperwork process with the base vet so that is squared away. I am still pricing out a one way ticket to Okinawa and trying to find an airline that will not rip us off when it comes to the prices to take my pets as excess baggage.

    • Hi Maria. I know your post is a few years old, but can you share what you ended up doing with your dogs. We’re moving there in a month and were told the same thing–no room on PE and they aren’t allowing us to fly commercial. Any advice on how to ship the dogs over separate? Did you hire a service to help and/or do you have any recommendations? Any help would be great, thanks!

    • Oh good! Glad there was good info because when we flew a dog from the UK to Oki years ago, we had to restart her quarantine because she had “been in the States.” It’d be GREAT if you could skip that problem and get straight to Oki!

  5. We’ll be PCSing to Kadena later this year from the UK, and I’ve heard that we still have to go through SeaTac instead of flying directly from here. We also have a cat that needs to come with us. Has anyone done overseas-to-overseas especially with a pet? I’m wondering if we really do need to go to Seattle first to fly out and if it’s best to keep our cat with us the whole time.

  6. We are PCSing at the end of August and are taking the flight from Seattle. I have a few questions. When we called Seattle they said that our dogs would be on the plane with us to Oki and they are 2 boxers. The woman had said there is no cargo area on those planes. Also that is was a direct flight on a C 5. Has anyone else been told this. Just wondering because of reading the other posts. Thanks

  7. The Patriot Express flies a regular 747 jet, not a cargo plane. They do allow some small dogs under the seat but all the bigger guys have to be checked as baggage. The Patriot does not have a heat restriction over the summer like the commercial airlines do. We arrived in Okinawa in July with our two dogs and it was definitely hot.

  8. We are having an issue with my dog as well. We are moving to Okinawa in August….will they allow pets to fly in the summer? I know on the commercial flight pages it says no pets are allowed to fly in cargo between May 15th and Sept 15th because of the heat. We have a 60lb golden retriever so there is no way he is going under our airplane seat. 🙂 If anyone can offer some insight that would be great!! We can’t leave him here!!

  9. We just received orders to Oki for June. I will be traveling with 2 small dogs. my question is do they ride with us on the plane or do i have to check them with my bags. Also if anyone traveled with small dogs do you have any tips for me? Any info will really help me out. I’m kinda freaking out over this whole moving thing.
    Thank you

    • Stephanie, I’m glad you asked this. We will be headed over sometime during the summer 2012 as well, and our basset hound is old. I don’t want to stress him and risk his health, but if I had access to him during the flight, I think we would both be more comfortable. I haven’t seen any gauge on people getting to travel with their pets unless they are small enough to fit under a seat in a carrier. We’ve flown space A on huge cargo planes and there is so much room. I would totally ride cargo if I could be with my dog! Our alternative is to leave him with family in Washington, but I really don’t want to part with him. We’ve had him for nearly 12 years, he’s my baby!

  10. I’m going to post this on ever PCSing with pets post I can find on here. My husband an are will by flying commercially possibly. The guy at DTMO was telling us that there is no way that we can bring out 2 cats with us if we fly over to okinawa from camp pendleton on a commercial flight (American, Delta) because our connecting flight from Narita would be a Japanese commercial airline and they won’t accept out pets on the plan because of this dumb “fly America Act” How does that make sense? If we are spending our money on the cats tickets and it is not on the “federal governments dime” why would they not accept them because of this act that only apply to government travel? Does this make sense? It’s really hard to explain this when writing. PLEASE HELP

  11. Thanks for the post! Do you turn in the pets when you check in, or do you wait until later? Also, for all of those inquiring about the differences in the planes; the government switched contracts a few months ago, so there is a different company running the rotators now. Apparently the old one was much better! Thanks! -Rachel

  12. Does anyone have any information about a patriot express out of Okinawa to the states? I was wondering if I could get a flight going out of here two weeks from now. Im not PCSing, do you have to have orders? Thanks

  13. Good info thanks for the write up. I just found 1 thing interesting and had to laugh. I believe it was last week that there was a big uproar on the news about delta charging service members for their 4th bag but the patriot starts charging after the 2nd bag………not saying anything just a thought.

  14. You can check 2 bags per person (up to 70lbs each) and can bring a carry on. I believe a carry-on plus a backpack or purse would be fine.

    @Melissa-even if you don’t care where you sit, there will still be a time that you have to arrive by. Make sure you are there by then, or no seat at all is possible. They have to have everyone checked in etc by a certain time to release seats for Space-a.

  15. Question? Does each seat have a tv in the headrest? I’ve taken this flight a few times and it used to be a very nice plane and everyone had their own TV. Last time (about 1 year ago) no TV’s. We PCS out in a few weeks and I don’t want to carry our portable DVD player unless I HAVE to. Thanks!

  16. We traveled with our dog this past October. We had to check in (with dog so they could weigh everything) no later than 10pm, but could not actually “check-in” the dog until 2am for the 4am flight. After they weighed her and the kennel and we were all checked in we just hung out just down the escalator from the check in counter. There is a courtyard right outside where you can take your dog to the bathroom, etc. It looks like the flights now might be during the day, but just plan for some long hours waiting with your dog/cat.

  17. Melissa, If they told you the flight, you will be on it! Arrival time is just for the actual seat number, so yes, if you don’t care where you sit you can show up a little later. Just remember, the later you come the longer the check in line. I personally wasn’t able to bring my dog on the amc flight(they ran out of room, but knew in advance!), but I did notice others. If your pet is checked baggage, they seemed to take your pet right then, and you don’t have do anything else with them until you get to walk them at the first stop. If they are under your seat I noticed people with cats had them out in their laps while wating(not sure if it was allowed!) I didn’t notice anyone with a dog under the seat.

  18. Hi Trish,

    Great post…thanks for all the information; it takes a lot of the mystery out of this adventure (and that’s a good thing!) We’re leaving next week so this was posted right in time for us!

  19. Great post!! I also have a few questions. I saw you mention that the seats are first come, first served. Does this mean that if we have PCS orders we don’t have a firm flying date or is this solely for the actual seats on the airplane? So if I don’t mind where we sit it doesn’t matter when we arrive? Any advice on traveling with pets? We have a dog and a cat and it seems like we will have a lot of downtime when we check out of the hotel and before the flight…

    Thank you again for the great post! 🙂