During a Monday evening United Airlines flight from Houston to New York, a flight attendant forced a passenger to stow her puppy in the aircraft’s overhead bin. When the flight landed, the 10-month old dog was dead.
According to passengers on United flight 1284 from Houston Intercontinental to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, a passenger traveling with her teenage daughter and a young infant boarded the flight carrying-on a TSA-compliant pet carrier.
Shortly after she was seated, with the dog stowed beneath the seat in front of her, a United Airlines flight attendant ordered her to move the carrier, with the 10-month old French Bulldog, Kokito, inside, to the overhead bin for the duration of the 3-hour flight, saying that the carrier was blocking the aisle.
“The flight attendant told the passenger that her bag was blocking part of the aisle. I could not see it, as I was already in my seat, but it sounded like it was somehow not completely fitting beneath the seat in front of her,” Actor Maggie Gremminger, who was seated behind the family tweeted of the encounter.
“After the flight attendant asked her to move it above, the woman adamantly refused, communicating her dog was in the bag. There was some back and forth before finally the flight attendant convinced her to move the carrier to the bin above.”
Fellow passengers reported hearing the dog barking from the overhead bin during the flight, but that the dog was quiet by the time they landed.
It wasn’t until the passenger retrieved her carrier from the overhead bin and opened it that she, and the other passengers on board, learned the puppy had died. Gremminger posted that she and other passengers had heard the dog barking and “we didn’t know it was a barking cry for help.”
“I sat behind the family of three and thought myself lucky – who doesn’t when they get to sit near a puppy?” passenger June Lara wrote in a Facebook post. “However, the flight attendants of flight UA1284 felt that the innocent animal was better off crammed inside the overhead container without air and water. They INSISTED that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow. They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed.”
“There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel,” he added “There was no movement as his family called his name. I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy.”
United Airlines has reached out to passengers who were on the flight for more information for their investigation into the incident.
“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,” the airline said in a statement. “We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”
The airline is paying for a necropsy of the puppy and is refunding the flight tickets.
United Airlines pet policy states that non-service dogs are permitted in the cabin as long as the dog “is in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.”
In 2017, United Airlines was blamed in the death of 18 animal passengers, while both American Airlines and Delta Airlines were linked to two deaths each.