More space for pets is opening up on Patriot Express flights for service members traveling on permanent change of station orders to and from overseas, officials said.

Commercial airlines providing these government-contracted Patriot Express flights have agreed to temporarily double the number of pets that can travel in the airplane cabin, to 20, Scott Ross, spokesman for U.S. Transportation Command, said Monday.

It’s effective immediately, and the extra spaces will be available through Sept. 30, Ross said.

Air Mobility Command is in the process of updating its web page, and officials are getting word out to all their terminals, he said.

This policy change could open up space for some service members who haven’t been able to get space to carry their pets with them in the cabin in their PCS move. Scott cautioned that not all the terminals are aware of the change yet.

“It’s all in an effort to try to do what we can to take better care of the service members and their families,” Ross said.

With fewer options in commercial airlines for transporting pets to and from overseas during a permanent change of station move, some service members are finding they’re having to pay more to ship their pets. Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society has launched an interest-free loan program to help sailors and Marines who are having to use commercial options. And some military leaders have taken action to make it easier for families who can’t get pet reservations on government-contracted aircraft.

Last year, officials worked with Patriot Express contracted commercial carriers to increase the number of smaller pets that can travel in the aircraft cabin with their owners, from three to 10 per flight. Now that’s up to 20 in cabin per flight. DoD regulations allow only cats or dogs to travel on Patriot Express flights. Two pets per family are allowed.

Patriot Express flights have space available for 10 pets in the cargo area, and now 20 in the cabin area, depending on the size of the pet. It’s on a first come, first served basis. Fees are charged based on the combined weight of the pet and the kennel, and can vary between $125 and $375.

For pets traveling with the owner in the cabin, the weight limit for each cat or dog, plus its kennel, is a combined total of 20 pounds, so the cost is $125.

For those traveling with their smaller dog or cat in the airplane cabin, the kennel size must not exceed 20 inches long by 16 inches wide by 8.5 inches high, to ensure that it will fit under the seat in front of the passenger.

For complete information about requirements and making arrangements to move pets on Patriot Express flights, visit AMC’s Pet Travel Page. It’s imperative that families start early in this process.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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