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It’s been a doggone crappy week for some United passengers — especially three of man’s best friends. One destined for Kansas is now stuck in Japan, one on its way to Tokyo is with strangers in Kansas City and a third, a beloved French bulldog named Papacito… well, he’s dead.
The airline is clearly at fault when it comes to all three. So, naturally, United had to act — and given the firestorm that followed 2017’s infamous “passenger-experience” debacle — it had to act quickly.
I’m just not sure how I feel about this solution…
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.
The challenge here is that United is essentially transferring responsibility from passengers and crew members to the gate agents. If an in-cabin pet somehow ends up getting on a plane without that “bright-colored bag tag” — which I’m sure could happen weekly if not every day — is a flight attendant still held accountable if they insist that a passenger place the pet in the overhead bin?
We can always hope that common sense will prevail, but adding a special bag tag to the equation could end up causing more harm than good, assuming that the tags are issued as passengers are boarding at the gate.
As passengers with pets — and even those traveling in the same cabin as other people’s pets — if you “see something, say something.” I’m certainly going to keep an ear out for barks going forward, and if I find a pet in a bin (or on its way up), you better believe I’ll have something to say.
Featured image by Shaun Wang / EyeEm via Getty Images.
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