Puppy dies after being put in overhead bin on United flight

 smh.com.au  3/13/2018 11:58:30 PM 

"This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin," a United spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them."

According to United policy, small pets can travel in the cabin in a hard- or soft-sided kennel at a cost of $US125, as long as the carrier can fit in the space under the seat in front of the passenger.

Several fellow passengers who watched the distraught family recounted the incident on social media. The story was later picked up by The Points Guy, a travel consumer advocacy blog.

United Airlines' conditions on travelling with in-cabin pets from its website.

United Airlines' conditions on travelling with in-cabin pets from its website.

Photo: www.united.com

"I just flew into LGA and witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a passenger to put her dog bag in the overhead bin," passenger Maggie Gremminger tweeted.

"It was clearly a dog and while the customer was adamant about leaving it under the seat, the attendant pushed her to do so."

Gremminger said she and another passenger were concerned that the dog would not be safe inside the overhead bin, but assumed that, because the flight attendant was adamant, there had to have been air ventilation inside the compartment.

"They INSISTED that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow," another passenger, June Lara, wrote in a Facebook post early on Tuesday.

"They assured the safety of the family's pet so wearily, the mother agreed."

The puppy whimpered through the beginning of the flight, but eventually grew quiet.

Finally, when the plane landed and the dog's owner opened the bin and pulled out the dog carrier, Lara recounted, there was no sound.

"There was no movement as his family called his name," Lara wrote. "I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy."

When the dog's owner realised what had happened, Gremminger said, "she sat in the airplane aisle on the floor crying".

"I am disgusted and traumatised. Pets are family," Gremminger said. "How could a trained flight attendant instruct a passenger to place her dog in that bin. It was her job to understand the plane and it's [sic] rules/limitations."

United said in its statement that the airline was conducting an investigation into the incident "to prevent this from ever happening again".

Photos of the dog and its travel carrier posted by Lara suggest that the puppy may have been a pug, a dog breed that is particularly susceptible to suffocation if not given adequate access to air and ventilation.

"This little guy fought hard for his life, filling our flight with his cries until he finally ran out of breath," Lara wrote.

"United Airlines does not care about the safety of their furry travelers. This poor family paid $125 for their pet to be murdered in front of them. There is no excuse for the pain this family is suffering."

In recent years, with increasing numbers of travellers wanting to bring their pets along, airlines have implemented special programs to accommodate the animals' needs - and to assure owners that their pets will arrive at their destination healthy and comfortable.

And United has leaned hardest into the pet transportation market. In 2017, the airline transported 138,178 animals - more than any other US commercial air carrier, 27 per cent of the total number of animals transported by all the major airlines in the country.

United says its special "PetSafe" facilities are intended to help safely transport animals that are not allowed to travel in the cabin of the aircraft with their owners.

At some airports, dogs, cats, and other small and mid-size animals are carried to and from the plane in temperature-controlled vehicles, and the airline says it has veterinarians on staff to monitor the animals' welfare as they wait to board.

At O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, pets travelling as cargo are kept in a separate state-of-the-art building.

"The overwhelming majority of dogs and cats have no incidents," United spokesman Charles Hobart said last month in an interview about the airline's accommodations for pets.

But that doesn't mean that there are never tragic outcomes. According to a recent report issued by the Department of Transportation, last year there were 24 recorded incidents of an animal dying while being transported by a major US air carrier.

Of those 24 incidents, 18 took place on United Airlines.

The Washington Post

« Go back