Update on the United Waiver

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

In a May 1, 2012 letter to AFSA and the Department of State Under Secretary for Management, United Airlines confirmed plans to extend to Foreign Service personnel a pet travel policy exception, matching that in effect for military personnel.  The letter states in part: “

Effective June 1, 2012, Foreign Service Personnel will be able to transport their pets as checked luggage at the terminal ticket counter areas.”  The letter also states that while Foreign Service Personnel will not be required to ship the pet as “cargo,” “checking a pet (in crate) incurs (cargo) rates charged under the United PetSafe program.”  Reservations can be made under this program beginning May 20, for pets weighing 99.9 pounds or less with travel crate and travelers with pets will not be required to use professional pet shippers.

AFSA and the Department are now actively engaged with United Airlines senior staff to confirm the waiver policy particulars. We expect to receive further written clarification in the next week. AFSA

sent a letter May 15 to United Senior VP Hershel Kamen seeking answers and clarification to several points and asking some questions about the cargo rates.  Meanwhile, knowing that many of you have time-sensitive questions about the pet travel waiver policy, we are writing now to provide updates on both the points that have already been clarified, and those on which we are seeking additional clarification.

Are all civilian personnel with official or diplomatic passports traveling on PCS orders covered?

: Many of you have asked whether all U.S. Government civilian Foreign Service personnel will be eligible for the waiver.  Although the terminology in United’s May 1 letter is somewhat inconsistent, senior airline representatives have asked the Department for advice on how airline staff can best identify Foreign Service personnel from all government agencies who should be eligible for the pet transport waiver.  The Department has made clear the importance of the waiver covering all USG personnel traveling on official PCS travel orders to take up assignments at our embassies and missions abroad and recommended that official or diplomatic passport, agency ID cards, together with Permanent Change of Station (PCS) travel orders, will indicate "Foreign Service" status regardless of U.S. Government agency. So, a priority and a probable yes, with final confirmation still pending.

What are the PetSafe rates that will apply?

Many of you have asked for clarification of what rates will apply under the new program. United’s letter indicates that “applicable PetSafe (cargo) Rates will apply,” that “rates start at $229 one way (excluding freight processing fees, security fees, and other applicable surcharges),” and that “based on past information, the average rate charged is approximately $440 one way.”  AFSA has reviewed PetSafe rate charts, and we have ongoing concerns that these are closer to cargo rates than to excess baggage rates - potentially resulting in very significant increases in the cost of transporting pets.  We are asking that United clarify how they have calculated the $440 average rate.  If United does apply PetSafe rates to our personnel, this in AFSA’s view does not meet the checked luggage/accompanied baggage definition – and we will urge that civilian Foreign Service personnel be allowed to seek out another U.S. carrier in accord with GSA authorization and the Department ALDAC of 00032126 of 04/03/2012.  See text of AFSA's letter to United.

Seeking clarification:  

AFSA is requesting clarification of other key points in the letter, including a) the meaning of “excludes United Express and other partner airlines,” b) whether United could consider re-instituting the former excess baggage rates, or a flat rate approximating the average cost of $440 they cited to us in their letter; c)  whether United could consider allowing Frequent Flyers to use their FF miles to get discounts on PetSafe rates; and d) whether travelers with small pets can bring them in cabin if the pets meet the size/weight limits; and e) whether pets checked in at passenger terminals will be delivered at baggage claim areas. 

AFSA appreciates United's decision to extend this pet transport waiver, demonstrating recognition of the service and sacrifice of the U.S. Foreign Service on behalf of the United States.  We will continue to publicize waiver details as we learn them and are seeking to meet with United to both explain our concerns and better understand their goals and needs.  Meanwhile, please refer to the pet issues page of AFSA’s Web site for related information.


Susan R. Johnson
AFSA President