Every time you turn around, it seems like you are reading some disturbing new story about a poorly handled incident on an airline. The latest is the story of a puppy that a United Airlines flight attendant forced into an overhead bin — where the puppy died.
The incident happened on Monday, on a United Airlines flight from Houston to New York. The dog was in an approved pet carrier device when a flight attendant required the dog’s owner to put the pet carrier into an overhead bin. The flight attendant now says she didn’t realize the dog was in the pet carrier. Another passenger on the plane, however, says the dog’s owner resisted and told the flight attendant that there was a live dog in the carrier, but the flight attendant insisted and the dog’s owner eventually complied. When the pet carrier was retrieved at the end of the flight, the dog was dead — perhaps from lack of oxygen.
United Airlines has apologized, and a statement from a spokesperson said: “This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. 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.”
In this instance, perhaps the flight attendant was at the end of a long shift and at the end of her rope, or perhaps she was confused about whether there was a live animal in the pet carrier. (Of course, why else would somebody take a pet carrier on a plane as a carry-on item?) Whatever the cause, the story is extremely troubling, because it’s another example of airlines treating passengers like cattle. We’ve seen incidents where ticketed passengers have been forcibly removed from planes, including one instance that raised such a ruckus that United’s CEO sent an email out to me and other United passengers that spoke of passengers being “treated with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect” and that the airline intended to try to live up to “higher expectations.” I guess that effort still has a ways to go.