As just about everyone probably knows by now, on Monday night a dog died in the overhead bin of a United flight from Houston to New York LaGuardia. This happened after a flight attendant requested that the passenger place it there. Immediately after the incident, United issued 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.
Now that it has been just over a day since the story went viral, United has had time to do some investigating, and has issued the following statement:
We have spoken to the family, our crew and a number of passengers who were seated nearby. We have learned that the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier. However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin. As we stated, we take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident. We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support.
To prevent this from happening again, by April we will issue bright colored bag tags to customers traveling with in-cabin pets. This visual tag will further help our flight attendants identify pets in-cabin.
Seriously?! Every eyewitness said that the passenger clearly stated that they heard the passenger say there was a dog in the bag, and that there was a discussion about it. As a reminder, here’s what a person seated one row back told me:
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.
If passengers seated in the row behind understood this, what is the flight attendant’s excuse? And what’s her excuse for not being able to very clearly see that the bag was a dog carrier? Going forward, why would United expect that a flight attendant would see a bright tag when they can’t see a dog carrier and can’t seem to hear?
To be clear, I don’t think the flight attendant wanted to harm the dog, but rather I think she was being negligent and careless, and there should be repercussions for that. This is no different than if a pilot isn’t following protocols and that causes him/her to have an accident, causing injury or death to passengers. I don’t assume the pilot intended to do that, but there are consequences for actions, and they should no longer be in that role.
I do wonder what “taking full responsibility” here looks like, as it doesn’t seem like they’re disciplining the flight attendant.
What do you make of United’s updated response?