Pets of U.S. military members stationed overseas can fly back to the States on United Airlines regardless of new PetSafe restrictions, but only until June 18, the carrier and Defense Department announced this week.
Military pets of all sizes will be able to catch a ride home within the next few weeks so long as they initially flew overseas on United and the return flight is part of a permanent change-of-station move.
“We want to be fair and we want to work with them and we feel that the right approach is, if we flew your animal overseas, we will fly it back,” United spokesman Charles Hobart told Stars and Stripes.
Come June 18, new rules go into place that restrict the types of pets that can fly in the United PetSafe program and the size of crates that can house large-breed dogs in cargo. The restrictions are meant to increase the in-flight safety of pets after a series of incidents in recent months, including the death of a puppy in an overhead bin and the misrouting of a dog, drew scrutiny of the PetSafe program.
Hobart told Stars and Stripes that for now, United can only exempt military pets from the new restrictions until June 18. After that, military members will be subject to the same rules as the general public.
The announcement comes after weeks of protest, including a Change.org petition, that called on United to make an exception to its new rules for military members stationed abroad who may have few other options for getting their pets home.
Eligible overseas service members can complete a PetSafe military booking request form (PDF).