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April 2012

Boycott of United ends

FS pets

(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
AFSA President


Discovery shuttle DC fly-by


Folks near Foggy Bottom and the National Mall received a treat from NASA this morning.  The shuttle Discovery flew by several landmarks in the DC metro area on it's final trip to Dulles International airport.  It made three loops around the Mall before heading onward.  It's final destination will be the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy museum.

Landscaping 1.1

 Now that I've lived almost a year in my new house, I've seen where all the hidden plants eventually revealed themselves and bloomed.  I finally added more color and vitality to the back yard a few weeks ago.  I already have a couple trees, several day lilies, a few hostas, an out of control rose bush, and a yet-to-be-identified bush (which I've saved from creeping vine strangulation several times).

But the new deck stands out like an sore thumb and the back fence looks like a outfielder's stadium wall more than a privacy divider.  So we spent last weekend planting all the azaleas, ilexes, and cypress trees I bought a couple weeks ago.

Even though we were soaked during the cold rains on Saturday, holes were dug and plants were planted.  My FJ was even included in the project when we used it to get a load of mulch. It was a ton of work and my muscles haven't forgiven me just yet, but the yard looks great.  

The before and after shots-



Azaleas and Ilexes 


  Back wall


Leyland Cypress

The previous owner had placed rocks in random paths around the yard.  While I'm sure it helped them walk to a clothes line or the garden in the past, I only wanted a big walkway to the toolshed. This is the end result, which imho looks a much better than a narrow path of one stone every three or four feet.



Foreign Service Pets on Facebook

Due to all trouble United is causing Foreign Service Officers and their pets, an FSO created this Facebook page to help everyone "unite" under a common cause.

There's some news United may be changing how it will handle pet transportation for FSOs.  The Department has also adjusted some rules for FSOs to book with other airlines if needed.  AFSA provided the link here.