More and more passengers are traveling with their pets. Abuse of the emotional support animal protections has prompted airlines such as United to restrict which types of animals can be carried onboard. However, United cabin crew on a flight Monday night went too far.
According to a passenger on United fight 1284 from Houston Intercontinental (IAH) to New York’s LaGuardia (LGA), a passenger boarded the flight with a TSA-compliant pet carrier with a small dog inside. For unknown reasons, the flight attendant insisted that the passenger stow the carrier — with the dog inside — in an overhead bin for the duration of the flight.
The passengers reported hearing barking for part of the flight. By the end of the trip, horrified passengers found the dog had died in-flight.
United responded to TPG request for comment to confirm the story. A United spokesperson provided 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 website policy on pets in cabin states:
A pet traveling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times….
A customer traveling with an in-cabin pet cannot be seated in the bulkhead or an emergency exit row.
I asked a flight attendant for another airline if there would be any reason to require that an animal be stowed in an overhead bin. She confirmed that there should be no airline policy that would ever require such an action. If a passenger is flying with a pet, the passenger must be assigned to a seat that has sufficient under-seat storage for the carrier. If the animal is an emotional support animal, there would be no requirement for the animal to be stowed at all.
Under no circumstance should the pet have been required to be stored in the overhead bin. While the bin is pressurized, there’s no air circulation in the bins as there’s no expectation for a living animal to be placed inside. While bins certainly aren’t airtight, the lack of air might have played a part in the loss of the pet.
Our thoughts go out to the passenger who lost their pet. And we hope that United Airlines —and other airlines — will use this as an example to ensure that policies are clarified with cabin crew to prevent such a situation from occurring again.
This story has been updated since publishing to add United’s statement.
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