United Airlines Suspends Pet Cargo Program PetSafe After Mishap

Irgo a German shepherd owned by a Kansas family was mistakenly flown to Japan

Irgo a German shepherd owned by a Kansas family was mistakenly flown to Japan

In the aftermath of the French bulldog's death, the flight attendant who ordered the dog's carrier into the overhead compartment told United officials she was not aware that there was a live animal inside the carrier. The suspension does not affect the transport of small pets in-cabin, United emphasized.

"We're going to do a top-to-bottom review of the PetSafe operation", said United spokesman Charlie Hobart.

United promotes its PetsSafe program - one reason why the airline carries more animals in cargo than any other USA carrier, about 138,000 a year ago.

United Airlines said it's suspending a program that transports pets in cargo holds.

On Thursday, a United flight carrying 33 passengers from Newark, New Jersey to St. Louis was diverted to Akron, Ohio, after the airline realized that a pet had been mistakenly loaded onto the wrong flight. PetSafe fares are based on the combined weight of the animal and its shipping crate; for travel originating in the U.S., for example, fares range from $201 for an under 10 lb. animal to $2,410 for a 350 lb. animal being sent to continental Europe or Hong Kong.

Kokito died on a United flight after being placed in the overhead bin
Kokito died on a United flight after being placed in the overhead bin

Last week, United had three, separate, dog-related mishaps that resulted in one dead dog and two that were placed on incorrect flights. The German shepherd was returned safely to its owners in Kansas City March 15.

Hobart said the airline also will give airport crews more advance warning about the number and type of animals flying in cargo for each flight. This year, United and Delta Air Lines have added requirements that passengers traveling with emotional support animals sign paperwork asserting that the animal can behave on a flight. He said the airline is not ending the program.

The airline later said in a statement it accepted full responsibility for the pet's death and announced a new plan to issue brightly colored tags to customers traveling with pets.

"This visual tag will further help our flight attendants identify pets in-cabin", the company said.

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