UPDATE: As if United weren’t already getting enough bad press from the dead-dog-in-the-overhead incident, just days later the airline mis-shipped two dogs to two different destinations. A Kansas City-bound German shepherd was flown to Japan, while the Japan-bound Great Dane landed in Kansas City. Once again, United issued an apology, and “is looking into the matter.”
In another viral offense in a series of high-profile service blunders for the airline, a United flight attendant ordered a passenger to place her dog in a carrier in the overhead bin for the duration of a flight earlier this week, and by the time the plane landed, the dog was dead.
According to the Associated Press, the incident took place on United flight #1284 from Houston to La Guardia. United has taken full responsibility for the dog’s death, and has refunded the owner’s tickets as well as the $200 fee to bring the dog onboard. Part of United’s statement:
This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.
United has been a particularly hazardous airline for animals. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, United transported 138,178 animals in 2017; of those, 18 died and 13 were injured. By contrast, all other U.S. carriers combined transported 368,816 animals in 2017, of whom only six died and two were injured. (Figures include both animals riding in the cabin and in the cargo hold.)
For pet owners flying their precious cargo with them in the cabin, the take away is: Pets do not belong in the overheard bins. No matter what the flight attendant says.
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.