United Airlines Plane

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United Airlines Apologizes After Dog Is Placed In Overhead Bin And Dies

March 13, 2018 - 6:16 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- United Airlines is apologizing after a flight attendant on a flight from Houston to LaGuardia Airport told a passenger to put her dog in an overhead bin Monday night.

The dog died.

June Lara, a passenger sitting nearby, reportedly said that just after boarding United Flight 1284, the passenger was told to place her French bulldog named Kokito in its carrier in the overhead bin.

“I sat behind the family of three and thought myself lucky - who doesn't when they get to sit near a puppy?” Lara wrote on Facebook. “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.”

Upon landing, there was a grim discovery, Lara wrote.

“There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name,” Lara wrote. “I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy. I cried with them three minutes later as she sobbed over his lifeless body. My heart broke with theirs as I realized he was gone.”

CBS News reported the scenario was against the airline’s policy. The policy states in part: "Pet traveling in cabin must be carried 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,” CBS News reported.

CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg told Steve Scott and Michael Wallace Tuesday that he has not heard about anything similar happening before. But he said while there is an underlying issue of too many support animals being brought onto flights, placing any animal in an overhead bin is dangerous.

“Some flights are actually like resembling like Noah’s Ark – not to be funny about it, but in this situation, the only explanation I can possibly understand why the flight attendant would have done this was a space problem,” Greenberg said. “I don’t know how big the dog was, but this was not something that anybody would ever do, ever, is to put anything in overhead that’s alive, because you know, there’s no circulation up there. You’re also getting heat coming off the overhead lights. It’s not a good thing.”

Greenberg said he expects further investigation is coming.

“On one level, as you know, Delta Airlines and other airlines are now issuing new rules about what constitutes an emotional support animal and what justifies them flying on a passenger jet anyway, because so many people have abused the privilege,” Greenberg said. “But this, as it stands, is somewhat inexcusable.”

Still, Greenberg said he expects broader rule changes when it comes to emotional support animals being allowed in the cabins of planes.

“The rule changes will be down the lines of what authorizes you to go on the plane with an emotional support animal, because there are many dogs that are specifically trained to be support animals for people who have legitimate and recognized disabilities. That’s not what we’re talking about here,” Greenberg said. “We’re talking about an emotional support animal, which could, under the current rules, there really are no rules.”

Greenberg said Delta now has a rule that an emotional support animal must be accompanied by a letter from a certified physician or psychiatrist, and proof of special vaccinations and proper training, to fly on a plane.

“We’re having instances where flight attendants are getting bitten on the planes, because the dog is with their owner, and they don’t understand that the flight attendant is offering you a drink. They think it’s a threat, and they’ll lunge at the flight attendant,” he said. “So it’s becoming a very bad and uncomfortable issue.”

United also apologized last summer after a dog was put into a cargo hold on a plane that was held for hours on the tarmac, and also died, CBS News reported. Seven puppies died in a similar incident in 2010, and United was also sued over the death of a giant rabbit in a flight from London to Chicago last summer.

In another incident that amounted to a public relations disaster for United, a man was dragged off a plane from Chicago to Louisville last year after he would not give up his seat to make way for airline employees.