United to Pugsy: Stay.
This week, the airline released its revised rules on four-legged passengers traveling in the cargo compartment, including an expanded list of breeds prohibited from flying. The carrier decided to reassess its PetSafe program after a series of unfortunate (and in one case, tragic) events in March. The changes apply only to animals being transported in the belly of the plane and not to pets accompanying their owners in the cabin.
The carrier temporarily suspended PetSafe but will start restoring service on June 18. The timetable goes as follows: Travelers can reserve a flight for themselves and their pets from June 18 and onward for travel beginning on July 9. One caveat: The owner must be on the same flight as their cat or dog. Passengers who book from July 16 for travel departing from July 30 can send their pets solo — no human escort required. PetSafe will accept only cats and dogs.
United has also increased the number of banned breeds. Previously, the airline would not permit six types of adult brachycephalic breeds to fly year-round and would ground several types of dogs, such as the Boston terrier, during summer months over health concerns. (Animals with short or snub noses and strong jaws can suffer from respiratory ailments and breathing difficulties.) Moving forward, the airline will no longer accept 21 dog breeds and four cat breeds, including pugs, mastiffs, Lhasa apsos and bulldogs in the canine category and Burmese, exotic shorthair, Himalayan and Persian cats. The rule also applies to mixed breeds. (The airline requires a health certificate from a veterinarian that includes your pet’s breed, so there is no hiding the chow chow or Pekingese lineages.) The ban applies to year-round departures to all domestic and international destinations.
In addition, the airline will refuse to fly animals to four U.S. cities — Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and Palm Springs, Calif. — between May 1 through Sept. 30, because of extreme temperatures. If you have planned a holiday in India or Australia, you should find a pet sitter: Animals can’t fly to either country on United.
Speaking of planning, be sure to borrow or buy a crate shorter than 30 inches before arriving at the airport. The company no longer provides or sells carriers. You can purchase one through the airline’s website or at any pet supply store or online retailer.
United will continue to tinker with PetSafe throughout the year. The airline has partnered with American Humane, a Washington-based animal welfare group founded more than 140 years ago, and will adjust its program as needed.
“We are doing a top-to-bottom review of our entire product and service,” said Charles Hobart, a United spokesman. There may “ very well be adjustments.”
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