This story is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who love their precious pets, particularly the canine variety.
Earlier this week, on a flight from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to New York’s La Guardia Airport, a passenger on a United Airlines flight had, what can only be called, the most traumatic of journeys.
Family’s French bulldog died on a 3hr #United flight from Hou to NYC. Family says flight attendant made them put pup in the overhead bin. Stories differ on whether or not flight attendant knew dog was in this carrier. STORY ➡️ https://t.co/AMQBpLOcbA #abc13 pic.twitter.com/7mo605Le8H
— Courtney Fischer (@CourtneyABC13) March 14, 2018
Catalina Robledo, had prepared properly for the trip and purchased a TSA-compliant pet carrier that she should have been allowed to keep beneath the seat in front of her. This was United’s pet policy, and it conforms with TSA’s rules as well, but for some reason the flight attendant that Robledo dealt with didn’t know the rules because she wouldn’t allow the dog travel at Robledo’s feet.
Instead the flight attendant forced the dog carrier into an overhead bin, where it stayed for the four hour flight, despite the apparently constant barking from the dog within.
Robledo’s daughter, 7-year old Sophia Ceballos, who was travelling with her mother from Houston to New York, told ABC 13 about the harrowing experience.
“While we were flying, the dog started barking and barking and there was no flight attendants coming. We couldn’t stand up because there was a lot of turbulence so we weren’t allowed to,” Ceballos, told the local news affiliate. “She said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was a dog. I thought it was a normal bag.’ But we told her it was a dog, she’s lying,” the girl said through tears.
When they arrived in New York, they immediately knew something was wrong. “She’s like, ‘He died, he died. Kokito, Kokito.’ And he didn’t wake up. She hit his chest so he could breathe, but he couldn’t breathe,” Ceballos recounted.
While you might think that perhaps the forlorn mother and 7-year old daughter simply misunderstood what the flight attendant said or did, other witnesses have come forward supporting their sad story.
Maggie Gremminger was travelling on the same flight and witnessed the entire event unfold. She told the New York Times that Robledo begged to keep the dog carrier by her feet, but that the flight attendant refused to allow her to do so. “The pet owner was very adamant that she did not want to put the pet carrier up above. She was saying verbally, ‘My dog is in here, no, this is my dog.’ The flight attendant, in response, really just continued to ask her to put it above because it was a hazard where it was, it was a safety emergency, someone could trip.”
Gremminger also agreed with the young girl that the flight attendant was lying about not knowing there was a dog in the carrier.
“I want to help this woman and her daughter. They lost their dog because of an @united flight attendant. My heart is broken,” Gremminger wrote on Twitter, sharing a photo of the pitiful family. “She said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was a dog. I thought it was a normal bag.’ But we told her it was a dog, she’s lying.”
Another passenger, Juan Lara took to Facebook to explain what he saw:
For it’s part, United Airlines has accepted full responsibility, but dog lovers around the nation are still up in arms about the fact that such a terrible thing could happen on an airplane today.
Here’s what United Airlines had to say:
United Airlines spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin returned Fox News’ request for comment with the following statement:
“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,” she said.
“We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again,” Schmerin added.
The cause of death is as yet, unknown, but there is a possibility that lack of oxygen could have played a role in the dog’s death. However, the overhead compartments are not airtight, so asphyxiation is not a foregone conclusion.
Whatever the cause, this is yet another in a series of terrible P.R. moments for a national airline.
It also underscores the fact that United Airlines has the highest number of animal deaths and injuries among all U.S. airlines in 2017. 18 animals were killed and 13 more were injured while flying United’s unfriendly skies.
To put an even more ridiculous ending to this story, this wasn’t the end of United’s dog troubles this week.
Just a few days after killing one poor pooch, they accidentally shipped another one to Japan!
A family moving from Oregon to Kansas claims a mix-up with United Airlines resulted in their dog being sent to Japan by mistake…
The airline reportedly told Swindle that because Irgo was on an international flight, he might have to be quarantined for up to two weeks before he can be flown back, according to KCTV.
“At this point, all I can do is be hopeful that my dog is going to be OK and return safely,” she told KCTV. “I don’t know what else to do at this point. I can’t cry anymore. I’ve cried too much.”
The airline confirmed the mix-up in a statement to Fox News: “An error occurred during connections in Denver for two pets sent to the wrong destinations. We have notified our customers that their pets have arrived safely and will arrange to return the pets to them as soon as possible,” United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said.
“We apologize for this mistake and are following up with the vendor kennel where they were kept overnight to understand what happened.”
Just a bit of friendly advice for anyone planning to fly with their pets in the near future – Don’t fly on United Airlines!
Your precious cargo will thank you.