Dog Dies On Tarmac In Sweltering Heat At Australian Airport

Filed Under: Virgin Australia

This is a very sad story, especially for anyone who is an animal lover.

An Australian couple was traveling on Virgin Australia from Townsville to Sydney on Boxing Day.

The temperature in Townsville that day was approximately 32 degrees Celsius (around 90 Fahrenheit).

They were traveling with their french bulldog Bruno, who was being transported as cargo in the aircraft hold.

To my knowledge, animals are not allowed in airplane cabins in Australia, either in animal carriers, or as emotional support animals, like we regularly hear about in the US. I’ve certainly never seen a pet in a cabin in the hundreds of domestic flights I’ve taken in Australia.

The dog’s owners dropped him off to baggage handlers when checking in, and said they made sure to hydrate Bruno before the flight, and asked the handlers to make sure the dog’s water bowl was full for the flight once he was loaded onto the plane.

They say as they boarded the flight themselves, they could see Bruno was left on the tarmac in his carrier, in the blistering sun for 40 minutes waiting to be loaded into the cargo hold.

When they landed in Sydney and went to collect Bruno, they were told the devastating news that he had not survived the flight.

An autopsy revealed that heatstroke was the most likely cause of the dog’s death.

French bulldogs have breathing difficulties due to their unique flat nose, which means they cannot cool themselves like other dogs can, so should not be subject to extreme temperatures.

The owners said this was clearly described in the paperwork accompanying Bruno.

Bruno and one of his owners (Source: Daily Telegraph)

Virgin Australia has said of the incident:

We are very sorry to hear of Bruno’s passing, as our team take great care and pride in ensuring guest’s beloved pets are safely transported around the country.

We are taking this matter very seriously and investigating how it occurred.  Virgin Australia adheres to stringent guidelines when transporting pets and we regularly review our handling processes to ensure that the highest standard of care is undertaken.

Bottom line

This would be an awful experience for any pet owner. I can certainly sympathise with the owners for what has happened to them.

Ideally airlines would be able to keep very close watch on all pets being transported, especially during extreme temperatures.

However in a busy airport I can understand that delays to baggage and poor communication could lead to an animal inadvertently being left on the tarmac for longer than anticipated. It’s sad that more wasn’t done to prevent something like this from happening.

Would you be comfortable transporting a pet as cargo by plane during extreme weather?

  1. While the situation is obviously unfortunate, isn’t it a risk to transport an inherently heat-sensitive dog in the cargo hold of a plane in the Australian summer? What if the dog was property loaded onto the plane, but the plane had to just sit on the runway for an hour due to a delay of some kind?

  2. This is but one reason why the majority of carriers have banned this, and other snub-nosed breeds of dogs and cats. Even on relatively cool days these animals do not travel well. Their breathing problems are only exasperated during flight when the aircraft and cargo holds are pressurized to an equivalent altitude of approximately 8,000 feet.

  3. Honestly, I do not come to this web site for these type of posts. This post really does not do anything to enhance the content on this web site. This web site is about points usage, reviews of interesting products (mostly earned through points redemptions) and interesting/ unique travel news analysis. While I totally sympathize with the dog’s owners as I’m a dog owner, this type of thing happens all the time everywhere in the world, especially in the US, when it gets hot in the summer. Why is this relevant or insightful at all to the main point of this page?

  4. if the couple had real concern for their pet, they would not have flew with their dog but drove (though hopefully not with the dog carrier strapped to the car roof)

  5. Which is why it is cruel and callous not to accommodate dogs in the cabin when possible until airlines can transport dogs without such a high probability of killing them.

  6. @Jason – thanks for being honest,
    but this wasn’t a clickbait article. You knew what you were opening when you clicked on the link… If it doesn’t interest you, skip it.

  7. This is just awful. Please don’t post these types of stories, it makes me sick. And remove the photos of Bruno as soon as policy. We need to respect the owner’s privacy during this difficult time.


    Transporting a breed that doesn’t deal with heat well in the middle of the day OR reduced oxygen in a cargo hold strikes me as playing Russian Roulette with your pet. Many airlines won’t accept that breed for transport for exactly this reason.

    PS: couldn’t be bothered to add a link to the original news article, huh?

  9. If you read the Virgin Australia website there is a reference to temperatures exceeding 25c as well as snub nosed breeds The customers chose to ignore that

  10. Putting a French bulldog on a plane is sheer stupidity and cruelty irrespective of what the weather is like on that day. If you are a pet owner taking your pet on a plane try and do a little bit of research beforehand to see if it is 100% safe.

  11. Another French bulldog issue? It’s way more risk to be hauling them on the plane. People, please do your research first.

  12. Seriously, they flew with a snub-nosed dog in Australian summer? wtf? It’s people like this who make traveling with pets so difficult because the dog dies, the media pounce, and then the airline decides it just isn’t worth the trouble to ever carry pets. I’m so sorry for the dog’s death, but this is on the owners.

  13. @eponymous coward – hardly much point in linking to a paywalled article.

    @jason – this website provides content for a wide audience. I, for one, thought it was worthwhile content. As others have said, you are welcome to not read the article.

  14. not sure what the logic was when you said french bulldogs have flat nose and are therefore hard for them to cool themselves down. I thought dogs cool themselves using the tongue.

  15. I’m trying to think if there are any circumstances outside of moving where I would travel with my dog (I don’t have one but I love them)… I can’t really think of any. The process is stressful enough for us…compound that stress with a sensitive dog being on the ground at a loud ass airport in the heat… Even if everything goes according to plan it has to be really traumatic for them. That sucks… poor dog…

  16. Not sure I would call Townsville a busy airport, and I would hazard a guess that VA uses a contract ground services provider there, so the duty of care would be somewhat reduced. However, just because you delegate a task doesn’t mean you delegate the responsibility, so VA should have ensured procedures were in place to handle any number of potential issues with handling live animals.

    Having said that, I have transported a large dog from Sydney to London in the past (34C leaving Sydney; 36C in Singapore during a stopover; -2C arriving in London), and I couldn’t fault the handlers. I was on the flight, and secretly hoped that she needed a visit in the hold mid-flight, but given her energy when she landed, I reckon she slept the majority of the 22 hours in flight.

    @anon – Townsville to Sydney is about a three day solid drive, and most people would take four days. Australian hotels / motels aren’t known for being pet friendly, so most people would look at air transport.

  17. It is sad when any fellow sentient mammal dies unnecessarily, especially when bred for our pleasure or farmed and murdered for our consumption.

  18. Australia is a hot country. Why do people own breeds which dont do well in hot weather in Australia? That is just favoring your own well being over the well being of the animal.

  19. @Ivan X – why on earth would anyone ask United to comment about this when they have nothing whatsoever to do with the death of the dog?

  20. @Ivan X: you’ve quoted a story about United. This piece isn’t about United, did you not realise? Why would you comment on a post not about United to ask if he’s asked United for a comment? Go make your comment on the United story if you want to seem plausible, otherwise that’s like writing on a story about a cat dying on an Amtrak journey if James had asked for a comment from Royal Caribbean about the time a cat fell overboard: moronic.

  21. @mkcol When a reporter covers a story, it is not unusual to seek the insight of unrelated parties who may have similar expertise. Furthermore, I resent your accusation of my wanting to seem plausible.

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