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Dog Dies on United Airlines Flight After Being Forced to Ride in Overhead Bin

Illustration for article titled Dog Dies on United Airlines Flight After Being Forced to Ride in Overhead Bin
Photo: AP

A black French bulldog has, quite tragically, joined the great overhead beyond, after reportedly being forced to travel in unsafe conditions on a United Airlines flight bound from Houston to New York on Monday.

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According to a Facebook post (containing pictures of the deceased animal so please be warned!) written by a fellow passenger, June Lara, the flight attendants aboard insisted that the dog be placed in an overhead bin for the duration of the three-hour fight, at the conclusion of which “There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name.”

Maggie Gremminger, who had been seated behind the pet owner, also confirmed, to the New York Times, that after boarding the flight with two children, she was told to place the 10-month-old puppy in the bin.

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Another passenger told ABC News on Tuesday that the flight attendant was not aware that there was a dog in the bag when she requested it be placed overhead, and was, according to this witness, “frazzled and shocked” when the flight landed and the dog, deprived of water and air for the past few hours, was discovered.

Maggie Schmerin, a spokesperson for United, said in a statement on Tuesday, relayed by the Times, “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.”

It’s a pretty empathetic sounding statement and, according to the Times, it’s indeed true that placing animals in overhead bins is against United’s policy, according to which pets must fly in carriers that are able to fit under the seat directly in front of the owner’s.

contributing writer, nights

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DISCUSSION

Dr Mrs The Monarch

People: read the links in the story before you pass judgment. If you want a quick overview...

  • No, the dog wasn’t smuggled aboard.
  • The owner paid for it to be in the cabin.
  • It was in a TSA-approved carrier.
  • According to one of the two first witness accounts (linked above) the owner “adamantly refused” to put the dog in the overhead bin, but the flight attendant insisted.
  • The flight attendant knew there was a dog according to multiple witness accounts (some linked above). Plus everyone around on the plane knew.
  • No, not everyone can take the financial hit for a missed flight. We don’t know why this person was traveling (not that it matters, but we don’t know).
  • The dog would not necessarily have been safer in the cargo hold.
  • Yes, people believe those in positions of authority (which includes flight attendants) when they say everything will be okay and insist on things. (“They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed.”)
  • Arguing with flight attendants can get people beat up, kicked off flights, put on no-fly lists, and worse. Especially on United.
  • No one checked on the dog mid-flight because there was turbulence and people were not allowed to rise from their seats. (Plus, the mother had a baby so, between turbulence and the baby, I’m sure the three hours passed shockingly quickly.)

Note that United took responsibility for this death faster than... anything, practically. That’s an indicator. They know they’re in the wrong and have moved right on to damage control. The family didn’t even come forward initially... it was two unrelated witnesses that blew the whistle on Twitter and Facebook, specifically looking for retribution against United and the flight attendant.