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The fallout continues for United in the sad tale of the loss of a family pet Monday night. In an attempt to ensure that no other family loses their pet in that manner, Senator John Kennedy announced Wednesday evening that he’s planning to introduce a bill on Thursday prohibiting “airlines from putting animals in overhead bins.”
The Louisiana senator notes that “violators will face significant fines.”
It’s important to note that United policy has never called for storing pets in overhead bins. In this situation, United claims that its “flight attendant did not hear or understand” the passenger when she said that the bag contained a pet “and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin.”
Similarly, no other airline policy we’ve found ever calls for a pet to be placed in the overhead bin. That said, having the consequence of a “significant” fine would ensure that airlines remain especially diligent about avoiding this situation from occurring again.
However, a more productive way to enhance safety for traveling pets would be an inquiry into United’s general pet handling failures. Department of Transportation statistics reveal that United has both the highest rate and highest number of incidents involving loss, injury or death of animals during air transportation.
In 2017, United had 31 total incidents — 18 deaths and 13 injuries — for an rate of 2.24 incidents per every 10,000 animals transported. The total number of incidents for all other airlines combined was just nine: six deaths, two injuries and one loss.
American Airlines had the second-highest rate of incidents with 0.87 loss, injury or death per 10,000 animals transported — with two deaths, one injury. Delta (0.52 rate) and Alaska (0.26 rate) were the only other airlines that had incidents during the year. According to DOT statistics, 506,994 pets were transported by airlines in 2017. More than 27% of these pets were transported by United.
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