Guest blog writer, Happy Tails Travel
The imminent merger of two large U.S. commercial airlines will not affect the costs for service members shipping their pets with them on military-contracted ‚ÄúPatriot Express‚Äù flights as they make permanent change-of-station moves, according to defense officials.
‚ÄúOur contract allows pets to fly for a tariff that‚Äôs already been negotiated,‚Äù said Cynthia Bauer, spokeswoman for the U.S. Transportation Command.
A variety of commercial passenger carriers contract with the Defense Department for Patriot Express flights, Bauer said, adding that Patriot Express missions are ‚Äúthe primary way‚Äù that military passengers on official orders move to and from the U.S. and overseas locations.
Currently, service members moving to or from overseas locations and flying on contracted Patriot Express aircraft pay $112 to fly a pet weighing up to 70 pounds, regardless of where they are flying, Bauer said. For pets weighing more than that and up to 140 pounds, it‚Äôs another $112, or a total of $224.
That cost is set by TransCom, along with the Air Mobility Command, at the time that the contract that includes Patriot Express flights is agreed to, Bauer said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not negotiable,‚Äù she said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs what the service member pays.‚Äù
United Airlines and Continental Airlines are two of the Patriot Express carriers. As those two airlines merge, the new United will adopt Continental‚Äôs PetSafe program. Beginning March 3, except for small animals that can be carried on board, United will no longer check in animals at the airport ticket counter for travel in the cargo area of the plane. Instead, passengers will take their pets to cargo facilities or express offices.
But for those shipping pets outside the Patriot Express venue, costs could increase in some areas. For example, ‚Äúdue to Japanese law, anyone shipping their pets from Japan pays our PetSafe rate and a third party forwarder at market rates,‚Äù said Mary Ryan, a spokeswoman for United.
She said the company realizes the pricing could affect some military families who do not use Patriot Express flights, and is evaluating its pricing from Narita International Airport. Information was not available about the differences in pricing at press time, but one source told the Defense Department newspaper Stars and Stripes that prices for shipping under the new system could reach almost $4,000.
‚ÄúPatriot Express is a good first option for [military] travelers, especially those travelers with pets,‚Äù Bauer said, adding that local transportation offices can help military members and their families with the latest information.