Foreign service officers have claws out for United

April 18, 2012

First Dog Bo Obama: would he get the discount? (Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES)

Seems the airline’s new policies are costing a paw and a leg for them to move their pets from country to country. The carrier’s new rules have upped the charge for pet transfers, and though it gives a nice waiver to members of the military who have to make such moves, it doesn't offer the same deal to the diplomats.

That means that pets—newly classified as cargo instead of excess baggage—can cost several thousand dollars to transport, instead of a few hundred. And since cargo is treated differently than baggage, the pets must undergo more complicated inspections and connections—and some have even died en route, foreign service officers say.

Because United is so ubiquitous--and because many officers must travel on a U.S. airline-- it’s often the only option.

But at least the four-legged companions have friends in high places. U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke—who is a former Commerce Secretary—weighed in in a letter to United’s CEO. “As a pet lover myself, I am deeply concerned about this policy change,” he wrote. “The sharply increased costs will likely place transporting the family pet beyond the reach of some of our diplomats.”

So basically, he’s advocating a no- pup-left-behind policy. And some 3,000 foreign service officers wrote, too. The issue, we hear, is reaching top desks at the State Department.

Pet puns aside, the Foreign Service Association says it’s a serious issue that affects the morale of the diplomatic corps across the globe.

Still find even the lower rates too pricey for schleppping Fido? Ask a fiscal conservative like former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and he’d tell you to strap the pup’s crate to the top of the minivan.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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