Update: United has sent the following statement via their spokesperson —
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.
Personally, I put 100% of the blame on United Airlines and the flight attendant in this situation. Three times as many animals died while in the care of United last year than all other US carriers combined, and their PetSafe program just sent a dog to Japan rather than Kansas by mistake. Clearly, a broad investigation is needed.
This story is heartbreaking. A United flight attendant instructed a passenger to place their dog (in a carrier) in the overhead bin, and the dog ended up dying. Here’s part of the story from Maggie Gremminger, who was on the flight (United 1284) last night from Houston to New York LaGuardia, and seated one row away from the passenger that this happened to:
I was in seat 24A, the woman (mother) was 23C, with her young teenage daughter in seat 23B. The mother had a young daughter and a newborn.
I was sitting in the row behind the woman with the dog, and the gentleman next to me witnessed it all as well. We both overheard/saw the interaction between the flight attendant and the passenger.
I witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a woman to put her dog carrier with live dog in an overhead bin. The passenger adamantly pushed back, sharing verbally that her dog was in the bag. The flight attendant continued to ask the passenger to do it, and she eventually complied. By the end of the flight, the dog was dead. 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. it was this out of body experience of grief.
But holy **** I don’t know how the hell this happened. The flight attendant wouldn’t even NEED to hear there was a dog in the carrier. She was right there looking at the TSA approved bag. (The dog carrier is the black on the ground in the photo. It is clearly a carrier with mesh, which makes me question how the flight attendant could say she didn’t know there was a dog)
I feel angry and powerless and regretful. I know clearly this was not an intent of anyone and yet that flight attendant is responsible for this. How were we to know that maybe there wasn’t a new ventilation system in those bins? It’s not our job to know this information.
I understand emotional distress in a different way right now. I can’t get the image out of my head of the woman on the floor of the airplane aisle, crying and holding that sweet dog.
Immediately after the flight landed, myself and another witness stayed to speak with various United employees. The flight attendant denied knowing it was a dog, but the man seated next to me said he heard the flight attendant respond to the passenger “you need to put your dog up here” – therefore admitting that she knew an animal was in there. Additionally, I’ve been in touch with United via private message on Twitter.
They publicly replied asking me to message them – once private messaging them I shared my confirmation # and flight info. They replied:
“We appreciate you reaching out with more information. Please know that we are in contact with the passenger and thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
I also was offered $75 in credit (along with the gentleman witness) for staying and working with them to share our recollection of events. We both refused the credit.
Here’s a picture of the mother, her daughter, the infant, and the dog carrier (taken after the flight).
This is so heartbreaking and disgusting. I can’t even wrap my head around how this could have happened.
United received negative attention last year for a dog who died after being shipped via their PetSafe cargo service. Traveling with a pet in the hold is more risky, but barring an emergency a dog should be safer in the cabin with their owner.
There’s simply no circumstance under which a dog should ever be placed in the overhead bin. Ever. The witnesses claim that it was made clear that it was a dog. Even if it wasn’t, just looking at the carrier it’s incredibly obvious that it’s for an animal.
United should be ashamed of this, and the flight attendant in question needs to be disciplined.