Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pet Lovers, Boycott United Airlines

Nick Kralev writes a great piece on United Airlines' new pet policy.

He writes:

"Nearly 3,000 U.S. diplomats have urged United Airlines to extend to them a waiver from its more expensive and “unfriendly” new pet travel policy that the carrier has granted the military, the diplomats’ union said. While it took United just days to exempt the military, it has been mulling the State Department’s request for weeks.

The biggest hurdle appears to be the lack of understanding by United’s management — as is the case with most people — what the Foreign Service does, and why diplomats’ service to their country is no less important than the military’s. That’s exactly why — long before this issue arose — I decided to write my upcoming book “America’s Other Army.”


It seems United’s management doesn’t think that American diplomats make any sacrifices when serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, the Congo and many other extremely dangerous places. Not all diplomats are posted to London and Paris — not that those “cushy” in most people’s minds posts are not dangerous, judging by the 2005 London terrorist attacks or last week’s murders in the French city of Toulouse.

By many accounts, PetSafe has been very successful domestically. United takes care of the pets without using third-party vendors, it automatically transfers the animals to connecting flights on its own aircraft and keeps them in air-conditioned facilities during layovers. Although the pets are checked in as cargo, there are no customs or other bureaucratic formalities, so the service is not too expensive.

However, that doesn’t work internationally most of the time. Very few diplomats take a nonstop flight to their new post. In some cases, they make two or even three connections. In each city, they are now forced to leave the passenger terminal, walk or take a taxi to the cargo terminal, collect their pets, recheck them in — often on a different airline, which could add more fees — then return to the passenger terminal, go through security again, and finally arrive at their next gate. By the time all that happens, they may well miss their connecting flight. Even worse if a single parent with small children is trying to accomplish those tasks.

Because of the so-called Fly America Act, the federal government must book its employees on U.S. carriers — on full-fare tickets. Foreign Service members and their families often end up on United, and many of them are elite MileagePlus members. The State Department and its 50,000 employees around the world have supported United for decades. Not to mention that one of the missions of the Foreign Service is to help create and expand business opportunities for U.S. companies, and airlines tend to benefit from that significantly."

You can read the whole piece here.

And after you do, tell all your family and friends to Boycott United.

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