On Monday night, witness June Lara says United flight attendants insisted another passenger place her dog in the overhead bin on a flight from Houston to LaGuardia. This, despite the fact that the dog was in a TSA-approved carrying case and that United’s policy clearly states that dogs should be stored under the seat in front of the passenger in those cases. For unclear reasons, the flight staff allegedly asked the passenger to put the pup, a 10-month-old French Bulldog, in the overhead bin without explaining why but assuring the passenger the dog would be fine.
Another passenger said she heard the dog barking during the flight. When the plane landed, the dog’s owner found her dog motionless. According to Lara, the passenger and her two young children called the dog’s name, and after it didn’t respond, the mother attempted to give the dog mouth-to-mouth, as Lara held the dog owner’s toddler. The dog was dead. Lara posted this on her Facebook page (see below) and the other passenger expressed outrage on Twitter.
United confirmed the incident on Tuesday. Its statement admits that the overhead bin is no place for a pup:
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.
CNBC reports the airline is refunding the price of tickets for the family and has offered to pay for a necropsy to determine the dog’s cause of death. Based on the lack of airflow in the overhead compartment and the tendency of French Bulldogs to have breathing problems, suffocation seems to be a likely cause.
We don't know if the dog's owner protested the flight attendant's request to move the dog to the overhead bin, but clearly there needs to be at least disciplinary action. It's a situation that United doesn't need since this is not the first PR nightmare they've had to deal with