United Airlines Decision Could Strand Military Family Pets on Guam

Sailors assigned to the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40), participate in a community relations event at Guam Animals in Need shelter in Yigo on Feb. 9, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Heather C. Wamsle)
Sailors assigned to the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40), participate in a community relations event at Guam Animals in Need shelter in Yigo on Feb. 9, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Heather C. Wamsle)

Military families living on Guam may not have a way to ship some pets off the island after United Airlines announced a plan to suspend its pet shipping program.

About 7,000 U.S. troops are stationed at the U.S. territory's two military bases.

United Airlines on Tuesday temporarily suspended its PetSafe cargo pet transport program through May 1, airline officials said, after a series of recent pet transport disasters, including animals being delivered to the wrong families and the death of a small dog in a cabin.

Airline officials said they would honor shipping reservations made through Tuesday.

But military families stationed on Guam rely on United to ship large pets on and off the island after Delta canceled its service to Guam early this year.

Air Mobility Command (AMC) will move pets on military aircraft on a space-available basis via a service known as Patriot Express, which uses contracted flights. But because Andersen Air Force Base does not have those flights, pets cannot be flown in and out of Guam by military transport, Andersen officials said in a statement posted to the Andersen Passenger Terminal Facebook page March 20.

"In light of the recent decision by United Airlines to suspend bookings for pets, we have begun to receive many phone calls regarding the shipping of pets on DoD aircraft and would like to help answer any questions regarding the shipping of your pets," the statement said. "Unfortunately, we do not have commercially contracted passenger missions out of Andersen and are unable to ship pets at this time."

That could cause major problems for military families preparing for an upcoming move on or off the island.

"We are on PCS orders and have no way to get our dog off Guam," one Navy spouse told Military.com. Her dog weighs about 85 pounds, and the family is slated to move in June.

"It's not like other [outside the continental United States] stations where multiple airlines fly out, like Japan or Germany," she said. "Because Guam is so small, United is the only airline that flies in and out of the U.S."

This story was updated March 20 to include a statement from Andersen Air Force Base passenger terminal officials. 

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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