This is about a dog but it could be about any pet being transported on a United Airlines aircraft. I have to say from the outset that what happened was against company policy. United Airlines’ flight attendants are trained to ensure that pets and carriers are placed under the seat.
However, in this instance United Airlines is facing animal cruelty charges following the death of a dog on one of their flights. The dog’s name was Kokito. He was a 10-month-old French bulldog. Sophia along with her mother Catalina Robledo, her two-month-old brother and the dog were flying home from Houston Texas.
The flight attendant (we don’t have his or her name) repeatedly insisted that Kokito must be stored in the overhead storage area rather than under the seat.
“She just closed it like it was a bag.”
The family told the attendant that the carrier contained a dog. They made this completely clear and the other passengers have provided eyewitness evidence. There’s no question about this. This attendant knew there was a dog inside that carrier. Despite that he/she persisted in demanding that the carrier be placed in the overhead locker where the dog died after about 30 minutes of flight.
He was heard barking for 30 minutes and then he fell silent. He remained in the locker for the entire three hour flight. I’m very surprised actually that the family did not open the locker during the flight. Why did they not do this? There may be an element of contributory negligence here.
When the plane landed and the family prepared to disembark they thought that the dog was asleep but then discovered he was dead. They were in tears and in shock. The attendant was also in shock. The attendant claimed that he/she was unaware that there was a dog in the carrier. This appears to be a lie.
United Airlines have offered to reimburse the ticket and provide compensation but clearly this will never be adequate. They say that it was a tragic accident which should never have occurred. They agree that pets should never be placed in the overhead bin and express their deepest condolences to the family.
There is another factor in the story which is not been stated in the newspapers. The French bulldog is an inherently unhealthy animal as far as I can tell. They have breathing difficulties and can suffer from heat stroke. There are many other, I regret to say, inherited health issues with this breed of dog. But poor breathing and a susceptibility to heatstroke placed this particular dog under a severe risk of death under the circumstances.
It appears that the airline has been negligent and that the flight attendant failed to show a proper duty of care towards the family and their dog. The family had paid the required US$125 pet fee for each flight.
A US senator, John Kennedy has written to the airline’s president demanding an immediate explanation for the number of animals who have died recently in United Airlines’ care. He states that according to the US Department of Transportation, 18 of the 24 animals who died in major US airlines’ care in 2017 were in the care of United Airlines.
United Airlines have instigated a new policy to prevent this sort of tragedy happening again. It’s a new method of pet categorisation. A brightly coloured tag will be placed on luggage carrying pets. The policy will be implemented in April.
The truth of the matter is that there is no need for a new policy or method. There is simply a need for common sense to be exercised by flight attendants working for United Airlines. We don’t know what happened to this attendant. There’s no question in my mind that he or she should be sacked summarily for gross misconduct. This is another PR disaster for this airline. There have been previous incidents regarding pets.
Having thought about this, if it was me with my cat, I would hope and I believe that if this sort of scenario befell me I would have resisted and not complied with the flight attendant’s demands. I would created a scene and there would have been a certain amount of mayhem in the aircraft until the matter was resolved. As a last resort, I would have probably left the aircraft and insisted that I be free to leave the aircraft. To place your cat or dog in an overhead locker is almost like a death sentence and is unthinkable.
The source of the story is the Independent online newspaper.
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