In case there’s any confusion, a dog is not a dopp kit. Yet a stunned family traveling this week from Houston to New York City claims that a United Airlines flight attendant insisted they stow their French bulldog in the bulk bin.
When they arrived, they discovered their beloved pet Kokito had died.
The incident first came to light across travel and flight blogs on Monday. One Mile at a Time posted an account from passenger Maggie Gremminger, who described a mother, daughter and baby traveling together. “I witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a woman to put her dog carrier with live dog in an overhead bin. The passenger adamantly pushed back, sharing verbally that her dog was in the bag. The flight attendant continued to ask the passenger to do it, and she eventually complied. By the end of the flight, the dog was dead. The woman was crying in the airplane aisle on the floor. A fellow passenger offered to hold the newborn while the mother was crying on the floor aisle with the dog. it was this out of body experience of grief.”
She added, “I don’t know how the hell this happened. The flight attendant wouldn’t even NEED to hear there was a dog in the carrier. She was right there looking at the TSA approved bag.” Gremminger also included a photo of the family with the carrier, to show there could be no misinterpretation of what was inside it.
Another witness who’d been on the flight, June Lara, posted an account on Facebook that echoed Gremminger’s. “They INSISTED that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow,” she wrote. “They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed.”
The family has since come forward with their own version of the incident, noting that they’d paid the $200 fee to travel with the animal on board. “My mom was like, ‘It’s a dog, it’s a dog,’” 11-year-old Sophia Ceballos, who received the animal as a birthday present, said this week. “And (the flight attendant) said ‘You have to put it up there.’” She added, “We were really worried. He barked in the middle of the flight, and there was a lot of turbulence, so we couldn’t get him.”
The airline has issued a statement calling the incident a “tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin.” It adds that it’s investigating the episode and has refunded the family their fare and the $200 fee they paid to carry the dog on the flight. The Points Guy blog noted this week, “If a passenger is flying with a pet, the passenger must be assigned to a seat that has sufficient under-seat storage for the carrier.”
But is United actually going to do better from here on in to assure pet owners their animals are safe? A …read more