March 13, 2018
United Kills Dog by Forcing Passenger to Stow it in Overhead Bin

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Flying with pets is always tricky. You have to pay an extra fee, you can’t sit in an exit row, there are size and weight restrictions for the pet’s container, and lots of paperwork if you’re traveling internationally. There have been multiple stories of pets dying while in the custody of United airlines over the years, and today we have another one.

According to passengers on United flight 1284 from Houston (IAH)-LaGuardia (LGA) on Monday night, a flight attendant forced a woman to put her French bulldog into the overhead bin for the whole flight. The small dog was inside a TSA approved container. The dog’s owner, traveling with a teenager and a child, didn’t want to put her dog up but eventually complied after the flight attendant repeatedly told her she had to.

Apparently, the dog barked for a while during takeoff and then became silent for the duration of the flight. Upon landing, the owner discovered her dog had died. Maggie Gremminger, the passenger seated behind the dog’s owner, says “The woman was crying in the airplane aisle on the floor. A fellow passenger offered to hold the  newborn while the mother was crying on the floor aisle with the dog.”

United put out the following 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’s pet in cabin policy states that pets must be carried in approved kennels that fit completely under the seat in front of the passenger at all times. Passengers traveling with pets can’t be seated in exit rows or bulkhead rows. The dog’s owner doesn’t appear to have violated any of these policies.

Image Courtesy of June Lara

There is absolutely no reason to put a dog in the overhead bins. If the kennel is too big, which it wasn’t in this case, the dog can’t travel in the cabin. The blame is 100% on the flight attendant and United’s absolutely terrible overall customer service. I’ve already been shifting more of my flying business away from United over the past year and now I’m at the point where I’ll happy pay more to fly another airline.

I can understand mistakes, sincere apologies, and policy corrections. This isn’t a one-off occurrence with United. Customer service at nearly every point of contact with the airline is atrocious. When I call the Platinum line for phone assistance, I get rude and apathetic agents, when I fly Economy, domestic First, or international Business, it’s consistently the same thing. Sure some employees are great, but I just expect horrible service at this point.

Do I think United will fire the employee who killed this dog? No I don’t.  I hope the owner sues for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and doesn’t settle. As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

Featued Image Courtesy of Getty Images