Friday, March 09, 2012

ATTENTION PET OWNERS: AFSA Appeal to United Airlines

From AFSA President Susan Johnson. As one of many pet owners in the Foreign Service, I urge (beg, plead) you to write.

AFSA Appeal to United Airlines

Include U.S. Foreign Service in New Pet Policy Waiver for U.S. Military

Dear Foreign Service Colleagues:

This is a call to collective action now on behalf of Foreign Service pets and their owners/families. See the sample e-mail letter to United at the end of this message immediately after my signature.

AFSA has engaged with the Department of State and United Airlines regarding United’s new policies on pet travel which restrict options, raise costs and pose enormous practical problems for the safe and timely transfer of pets at transit points where a change of plane and carrier is required. The likely difference to Foreign Service families would be instead of paying around $250-$400 per pet, families would have to pay much more and in many cases between $1,000 and $4,000 per pet.

United has granted a waiver to members of the military traveling on permanent change of station orders. Although all the specifics are not clear, it appears that the main elements of the waiver are (1) optional use of professional pet shipper; (2) waiving of $40 fuel and security charges; (3) flat rate* for cargo under United’s PetSafe program; and (4) United will assume responsibility for the transfer of pets to the connecting airline. Without the waiver, the traveler has to somehow accomplish this on his or her own, coping with getting to a cargo terminal, collecting a crated pet, take it to the connecting airline and do all this within the transit time allowed. (*the flat rate for cargo appears to be much higher than the rate for accompanied excess baggage.)

AFSA invites Foreign Service pet owners (and their friends) to participate in an important collective action e-mail campaign to United. If we join together we can have an impact. For maximum effect, we want as many e-mails as possible to be sent during a 48-hour window starting as soon as you receive this e-mail and ending at 5:00 pm EST on Friday, March 9. We ask that you copy AFSA at so that we have a central record of the number of participants in the action and can follow up. Otherwise, we won’t know how many of you joined in to make a difference and any needed follow up will be more difficult.

To make our collective voice heard, if you are a pet owner, past, present or future, or you believe that civilian federal employees traveling on permanent change of station orders should be given the same waiver accorded to our colleagues in uniform, we are asking you to click on the link below and send a message to United, urging them to extend the waiver program to members of the United States Foreign Service traveling on official transfer orders. Please make sure that your message is cordial and to the point; you should identify yourself as a United States Foreign Service employee or family member.

Susan R. Johnson
AFSA President

Here is a suggested message that you may copy/paste and personalize (briefly) if you wish.

Dear Mr. Smisek – As a [member of the Foreign Service/spouse or family member of a U.S. Foreign Service employee], I welcome your decision to grant a waiver of certain parts of the new United pet policy to members of the U.S. military on permanent change of station orders, and I urge you to grant the same waivers to America’s Foreign Service traveling with their pets when they are on official “change of station” orders.

Extending the waiver would demonstrate that United recognizes the service of those who work to advance and protect America’s interests abroad, and would modify a policy that unfairly penalizes members of a career service that requires its members to be available worldwide, who rely on and feel deep responsibility to their beloved animal companions. This policy will cause serious hardship, both financial and emotional, to members of the U.S. diplomatic service and their families when they are assigned to official stations abroad and traveling to and from their official station on government orders.

This is a fair and common sense solution and we urge you to extend the waiver to members of America’s Foreign Service, for the benefit of our animal companions who are such important members of our families and our lives.


(If the link does not work for you, please send the message to,,, and

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