United Airlines drew the ire of the public yet again after it was revealed that a small dog died during a Monday night flight from Houston to New York City after a flight attendant forced the pet’s owner to store the dog in an overhead bin.
According to CBS News, the incident began when the flight attendant noticed the dog’s carrier was protruding into the aisle before takeoff. Instead of storing the carrier under the owner Catalina Robledo’s seat, the attendant stuffed the carrier and its cargo into the overhead bin as Robledo begged them to stop and nearby passengers told the attendant there was a dog inside.
Robledo, who was traveling with her two children, was forced to listen to her French bulldog puppy, Kokito, yelping from above before passing away during the four-hour flight. “The dog barked and barked but I could not stand,” said Robledo. She was not able to come to the dog’s aide because she was holding her newborn daughter in her lap as the flight went through turbulence, and she highlighted the fact that the flight crew did nothing as the dog’s distress could be heard in the cabin. The flight attendant told United Airlines that she did not realize there was a pet inside the carrier and cried as she left the plane.
A statement from United Airlines labelled Kokito’s death a “tragic accident that never should have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin” and claimed full responsibility for the death. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them,” said the airline. United Airlines spokesperson Charles Hobart said it wasn’t known why the carrier wasn’t stored under Robledo’s seat by the attendant. United refunded Robledo’s tickets and $200 pet travel fee, and offered to pay for an autopsy of the puppy.
“We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again,” said the airline.
According to the Department of Transportation, a total of 24 animals died under the care of U.S. airlines last year. Of that total, 18 occurred under the care of United Airlines alone. “The overwhelming majority of the incidents were attributed to animals not being acclimated to its crate or the animal having a pre-existing condition we weren’t aware of,” Hobart told CNN.