Who are these helpless family members and how can YOU help them? Sadly, you may not be able to, not in time. They are the beloved family pets of military family members stationed overseas. And United has just decided to announce that they will universally, across the board, transport all animals as cargo effective March 3, 2012. That means, any pet traveling with a military family ON orders, will be charged as cargo, ride a separate flight, and there will be no option to keep your animals in the cabin with you any more. It also means, what once would have cost around $275 to fly a small dog will now roughly be $1450 for the same small dog. Or in my family's case, domestic cat....times 2!
It'd be simple to say "Well just fly another airline". Simple a solution that sounds, it's not one for a military family. See, we don't CHOOSE our flights. We don't CHOOSE our airlines. We don't even CHOOSE our travel dates/times/locations in most cases, those are all decided by unit travel department personnel. United and Continental have the government contract with the military, meaning we have to fly them no matter what kind of bullshit, money raping, ass-backwards scheming plots and fees they suddenly introduce. Because we have no choice.
Now, if you feel like wasting a couple hours of your life, that you can't get back, feel free to meander around the United facebok page. You'll see recent posts of outrage about this after the military paper ran an article about it. Keep going deeper though and you'll see older posts accusing military families of "expecting a free ride". I, myself, after reading at least 5 such posts and responses finally responded (and much to my amazement did not drop one F-bomb!) I'd like to share my response to those people with my readers, because I think it really was my best words to explain why this is such a big deal to ANY military family:
So no, it's not the military families expecting a handout. But some damned compassion and forewarning would be nice! My husband and I leave Okinawa in May, with our son and 2 cats. To be honest, this new United procedure with pets gives me anxiety attacks because it's not like we can make money appear out of nowhere!
So before accusing the military of wanting a free ride, try to think of the expenses that ANY person incurs when moving to a new city/location and then try thinking about doing that every 3-6 years because you signed a contract to do so! Yes, a contract was signed, but that doesn't mean companies like United should be allowed to exploit the fact that service members have no option but to use them (we don't book our flights, they're booked for us) and they can make these decisions because, well hell, what can we do, right?!?!? After all, the service members are the ones who signed the contract and the spouses?? Well, they married the service member for those great benefits!
So now, a personal note. Mac and I are about to be faced with somehow coming up with over $3000 to bring home our cats. Try to get a loan, sure. And if that fails? Leaving them is not an option. Somewhere, deep in the darkest part of my mind, I see myself taking my baby girl to the vet and asking to have Arwen put to sleep, not because she's old but because the devil you know is better than the one you don't. I'd much prefer to bring my baby girl's ashes home with me than leave her here and hope someone takes good care of her. Because in my 3 years here, I've seen too many animals left behind by owners to let that happen to Arwen. It's heartbreaking to think of ending her life because we couldn't afford to put her on a flight home with us, but I'll be damned if I ever have to worry about the "what happened". So say all you want, about how cruel and evil I am to even be pondering this, but I promise you....I will let every United Airline employee I see (if in fact it does come to this drastic measure) know that my baby girl's death is on their hands, as I carry her ashes with me on our flight home! You find me a CEO of United, I blow some of her ashes in his or her fucking face! NO family should have to take loans out to get their pets home! I shouldn't have to even be thinking about KILLING, yes there I said it MURDERING my baby girl, because of some corporate fucking policy that said "Hey I know, let's really fuck over the military! Because you know Congress hasn't done a good enough job already!"