The Washington Post

Foreign Service pets score big

"Danny," an adoptable beagle mix at George Mason University Law School in Arlington last December. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

United Airlines has told the State Department and the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) that it will extend its military pet travel rate to Foreign Service Officers assigned abroad.

A Loop item April 17 noted that UAL had given a waiver to members of the military when it newly classified dogs and cats as cargo instead of excess baggage — a change that could run transport costs from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Because of its size and federal requirements that officers use U.S. carriers, United is often the only option.

The AFSA members protested that they should be included in the waiver. Former commerce secretary Gary Locke, now ambassador to China, weighed in with a letter to the airlines.

Members of Congress, including area Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) wrote UAL executives last week urging that they extend the waiver to the Foreign Service.

The effort apparently paid off. A senior UAL official called State undersecretary Patrick Kennedy on April 18, we were told , and then AFSA President Susan Johnson the next day to tell them the military waiver would be extended. Unclear if it also applies to employees of other agencies who are stationed at embassies.

AFSA’s not been talking about it, one official said, because they were “still waiting for something in writing before we make it official,” and that the organization hoped to get written confirmation this week.

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