(photo courtesy of AFSA)
Fears that all Foreign Service pets would be shipped as cargo, were removed last week after United Airlines changed their pet policy. Prior to the outcry of the diplomatic community, United announced they were only waiving Military pets. Diplomatic pets were not deem equals even though their owners were serving side by side in several hardship/dangerous countries with their military counterparts.
But last week, United finally include Foreign Service pets in the waiver to allow shipping them as excess baggage instead of cargo. (Shipping as cargo involves higher costs in the thousands, lengthy layovers with no assistance, and higher risks of a pet being injured.)
I'm not sure what finally changed United's mind. Thanks obviously go to all the FS officers that petitioned United, AFSA's organization the effort and drawing attention to it, and the big names on the hill that stepped up and spoke for our pals that can't speak for themselves.
The full announcement from the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) is below:
United Decides to Extend the Military Pet Transport "Waiver" to Members of the Foreign Service!
This is a victory and provides recognition to the Foreign Service and those who serve abroad. AFSA will continue to work to ensure we have the option to transport pets as accompanied baggage checked in at the passenger terminal and delivered with baggage and hope to work with United to make PetSafe viable globally and truly safe for pets.
AFSA 's request for a meeting with United's CEO Jeff Smisek or with an appropriate Vice President resulted in a call today from Hershel Kamen, United’s Senior Vice President for Alliances, Regulatory Affairs, and Policy. Mr. Kamen told us that United Airlines has decided to extend its military pet travel policy waiver to members of the U.S. Foreign Service who are traveling on official change-of-station orders. This will include USG employees traveling to take up assignments in our embassies and missions abroad from all agencies.
We have not received official notification in writing and are awaiting details about what the waiver provides, but this decision is a direct result of this collective action that you made possible by your quick and united action. We want to let you know right away.
Huge thanks to all of you who wrote quickly and eloquently to United! Volume, speed and content combined for successful collective action and a message that was heard. This is a real success and validation of collective action for a good cause, and for standing up for the Foreign Service and what we do in service to our country.
We extend our appreciation to the work of Under Secretary Kennedy and his staff and to the Director of Logistics Operations in the A Bureau to get GSA authorization to use alternate U.S. carriers or code shares. This option should remain in place because the option to transport pets as accompanied baggage is the standard we need for ourselves and for our animal companions.
AFSA also extends our appreciation and thanks to six members of Congress – Nita Lowey, Jim Moran, Chris Van Hollen, Donna Edwards, Gerry Connolly and Eleanor Holmes Norton who wrote to United in support of extending the waiver to members of the U.S. Foreign Service.
AFSA extends a big thank-you to the Overseas Briefing Center, and to volunteers from AAFSW, the Foreign Affairs Friends of Animals Network (FAFAN), the FSpets Yahoo Group as well as from our FS pet owners themselves for their great work for this cause. It would not have happened without you all!
We appreciate United's decision to extend this courtesy to a large and dedicated customer group, demonstrating their appreciation of the service and sacrifice of the U.S. Foreign Service on behalf of the United States. We hope to work with United to help them improve their level of service to customers and to make PetSafe a program that is safe for pets globally.
AFSA will publicize the details of what the waiver provides as we learn them. Until then, you may read about the military waiver on the pet issues page of AFSA’s Web site. That page also includes the details of AFSA’s campaign to date.
Susan R. Johnson