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United’s Bad Week With Travelling Pets

A United 777-200 at Washington-Dulles (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Craig Fischer)

This past week has been a week to forget for United Airlines as three separate incidents with passengers’ pets have caused a PR nightmare for the airline. One incident involved a passengers pet passing away on a flight, while the other two involved pets being sent to the wrong destination. The public backlash has hit United hard, and politicians are already looking to create regulations for airlines regarding pet travel.

The first incident occurred on Monday when a carrier with a French Bulldog was placed into the overhead bin of a New York-bound flight. A flight attendant had placed the carrier in the overhead bin, despite being told of the animal inside. When the flight arrived in New York, the dog was found to be deceased. United has apologized publicly and to the owner of the dog for the incident.

The second incident occurred on Tuesday when a family’s dog was mistakenly sent to Japan instead of Kansas and a dog that was supposed to be on the flight to Japan ended up in Kansas. The mix up occurred at Denver International Airport in Colorado where both dogs were making connecting flights.

The pet was sent back from Japan on Thursday after being medically cleared to fly, after flying for 16 hours without food or water and going three days without ear medication. As a gesture of goodwill, and likely in part to make up for the bad publicity, United flew the dog back on a private jet.

The latest incident occurred on Thursday when a pet was again loaded on the wrong flight, this time in United’s Newark hub. A passenger’s pet was loaded onto a flight to St. Louis rather than the correct flight to Akron. The mistake was realized midflight, and the St. Louis-bound flight was diverted to Akron where the pet was reunited with its owner upon arrival in Akron.

The backlash has been felt by both the public and United’s employees. Many are distraught from the incidents, particularly from the death of the dog on Monday. United has taken full responsibility in each incident and the airline has offered compensation and sympathy to all passengers involved.

Politicians have also expressed outrage over the incidents. On Wednesday, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana wrote a letter calling for an explanation of the incidents by United. He also tweeted that he would introduce a law outlawing airlines from placing pets in the overhead bins. United has a high incident rate with pets, with 2.24 incidents for every 100,000 pets transported.

Hopefully, these incidents will shed light on the problems and force the airline to fix its pet problem.

Daniel Morley


  • Daniel Morley

    Daniel has always had aviation in his life; from moving to the United States when he was two, to family vacations across the U.S., and back to his native England. He currently resides in South Florida and attends Nova Southeastern University, studying Human Factors in Aviation. Daniel has his Commercial Certificate for both land and sea, and hopes to one day join the major airlines.

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