It’s hard to believe United could have a worse year than its last, but just a couple months in, 2018 is already shaping up to be a PR disaster for the airline—and this time, bad decisions proved to be fatal.
The New York Post reported on Monday night that a dog died onboard a United flight from Houston to New York when a flight attendant forced the owner to put her 10-month-old French bulldog puppy—who was in a TSA-approved kennel—in the overhead bin for the duration of the trip. Another passenger, June Lara, wrote in a Facebook post that “the flight attendants of flight UA1284 … insisted that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow” and “assured the safety of the family’s pet.”
“I want to help this woman and her daughter,” tweeted passenger Maggie Gremminger, who was also on the LaGuardia-bound flight. “They lost their dog because of [a] @united flight attendant. My heart is broken.”
While the dog could be heard barking from within the overhead compartment, Lara wrote that “there was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name. I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate” the dog.
United states on its website that pets traveling in cabins must be kept in an approved carrier, which “must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.”
“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” a United spokesperson said in a statement to Adweek. “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.” The airline also stated it will refund the family’s tickets and pay for the necropsy of the dog, according to CNBC.
This certainly isn’t the first time United has come under fire for disturbingly mishandling customer situations. (Last year, a viral video featured airport security officers literally dragging a screaming passenger off a plane when the airline realized it needed extra seats for crew members.) In fact, it’s not even the first time it’s been responsible for pet deaths. According to CNBC, while the airline stated it transported more animals in 2017 than any other airline, it also has the highest number of fatalities at 18 compared to American and Delta’s two each.