So if you’re friends with State Department people, this little bit of news is probably well, not news to you. For the rest of you, click on the link above for the whole issue, since I can’t write it better myself.
Well, apparently, United doesn’t think US Government employees, who are not in the military, sacrifice for their country. Let’s ignore the fact that we know at some point Karl will have to go to an unaccompanied post, like Iraq (where many Foreign Service Officers are currently posted), but nope, that’s not a sacrifice in United Airline’s view.
It seems that to our next post, Rio de Janeiro, we will have to pay for our own Delta tickets (Delta, please do not change your pet policy!), because US Airways, the airline that owns the DC-Rio fare, has the same policies as United, and not only we can’t bring pets as excess baggage (being in the same flight as we are), but they don’t even allow us to carry our pets in cabin to Brazil, which is how we usually take them with us. These babies are carry-on size, after all.
And yes, when I read United’s reply to our emails, I was – and still am! – very upset. So what if my pets are carry-on size? How about everyone else with bigger dogs? Or those that have more pets than family members (since for carry-on there is a one pet per person restriction, and it’s not unusual for a single person to have two pets, or a couple to have three!).
But you know what else upsets me? A lot of FS bloggers are now saying how they can’t take their pets with them, so they will be forced to abandon their pets at post. (I really hope some wrote that just to be extra-dramatic to get their point across, but I have a feeling that’s not always the case.) For the ones that are seriously considering leaving their pets behind?
NO, just NO! You took on a responsibility when you adopted/bought a pet. You knew the risks – be it transportation or vet bills. YOU DO NOT GET TO ABANDON YOUR PET. I can’t possibly be the only person that thinks pets are part of my family, can I? Heck, if I were forced to take US Airways, it would still be cheaper to pay for a friend to fly over and bring the pets in a different carrier than using United’s Pet Safe program.
At some posts, you don’t even have an option but to use a pet shipper, and you knew this when you joined the foreign services or when you adopted your pet! We obviously bid those posts low, but there’s always that chance you might end up in a place where a pet shipper is your only option.
I don’t care who you are, what you do, but always remember:
PETS ARE NOT DISPOSABLE!
Yes, boycott United. Yes, write to whoever you can to make them change the policy – including our own transportation department allowing us to cost-construct to another airline when our pets are banned from flying with us (right now, we are not allowed to do that, even though we are the ones who would be personally paying the difference in fare price – why does anyone care if I pay the difference myself?). Yes, write to Congress if you want them to change the rules to making it a requirement before any airline bid for those fares, that they must allow pets as excess baggage and in-cabin for overseas moves (when country entry requirements and pet size – for the in-cabin part – allows). But DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT, in any circumstances abandon your pet. You have a responsibility when you adopted them, you do not leave them behind.
After I wrote this, I saw Sadie’s post, where she remembers how her dog passed away due to her being forced to ship her dog as cargo. Read her heartbreaking story, that could have definitely been avoided, here. (Sadie is not one of the people that claim her pets will have to be left behind.) I think she also explains pretty clearly why United’s decision is not just a matter of a financial burden, but also how it increases the risks that something might go wrong with your pet during transit.
Edited to add: A friend seems to have taken offense by what I wrote, as she left her elderly dog with her mother instead of making her pooch endure a long flight on the cargo hold. For those of you in similar situations, please note that there is a BIG difference between leaving your pets in care of a family member/friend and abandoning your pet, and for the people that have had to make the sometimes hard decision of what’s best for the pets, are not the people I am referencing in this post. Pet abandonment when leaving post is sadly an issue in the foreign services, and an even bigger issue in the military community.