United Mistakenly Flies Kansas Family’s Dog to Japan

Mar 14, 2018

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United Airlines has had another incident with a passenger’s pet. After Tuesday’s tragic story about the dog that died after a United flight attendant forced a passenger to put the dog (in its carrier) in an overhead bin, the airline now accidentally flew a Kansas family’s dog to Japan on Tuesday night.

Kara Swindle took a United flight from Oregon into Kansas City (MCI) with her 7-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. The family is in the process of moving from Oregon to Kansas, and they booked their dog to fly in a kennel on another United flight that was also going to Kansas City.

After landing, the family went to United’s cargo facility to pick up their dog, a 10-year-old German Shepherd named Irgo. When they got to the facility, the family was instead presented with a Great Dane. Swindle later found out that the Great Dane was supposed to fly to Japan, and because of a mixup with United, Irgo was sent to Japan and the Great Dane was sent to Kansas City.

When Irgo’s flight landed in Japan, United employees told Swindle they were able to locate the dog. The airline told Swindle the dog would be seen by a vet and put on a flight to Kansas City. But, the airline is still unsure when Irgo will be able to return to Kansas City. United had originally told Swindle that Irgo might have to be quarantined up to two weeks because it was an international flight.

United says it is looking into what caused the mixup. A United spokesman gave TPG the following statement on the incident:

“An error occurred during connections in Denver for two pets sent to the wrong destinations. We have notified our customers that their pets have arrived safely and will arrange to return the pets to them as soon as possible. We apologize for this mistake and are following up with the vendor kennel where they were kept overnight to understand what happened.”

According to Department of Transportation statistics, United has the highest rate of incidents involving loss, injury or death of animals during air transportation, with 2.24 incidents per every 10,000 animals transported. In 2017, United carried more animals than any other airline, transporting 138,178 animals that year.

By comparison, Alaska Airlines, which transported the second most animals, with 114,974 animals flown in 2017, had an incident rate of 0.26 per 10,000 transported — a fraction of United’s rate.

“I just want to know where my dog is,” Swindle told KCTV 5. “The fact that we don’t have any idea is the most frustrating part. He could be in Kansas City and we have no idea because the paperwork is all messed up. They have our paperwork here saying that this is the correct dog, but we know it’s not. It’s just horrible.”

According to Swindle, United told her the two dogs had similar kennels, which might have been the source of the confusion.

“At this point, all I can do is be hopeful that my dog is going to be okay and return safely,” she said to KCTV 5. “I don’t know what else to do at this point. I can’t cry anymore. I’ve cried too much.”

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