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Dog Suffocates During United Airlines Flight

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a United Airlines plane

a United Airlines plane

via Wikimedia Commons

via Wikimedia Commons

a United Airlines plane

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Though pet transportation on airplanes has always been a major problem, the recent incident involving United Airlines has brought new light to the subject: on March 12, 2018, a family pet suffocated in the overhead bin after its owners were directed to put it in the compartment.

United Airlines has already faced much controversy in the past few years. Specifically concerning the complications found in animal transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation found that United Airlines caused 75% of all animal deaths in all US carriers. For the past three years, United has also had the highest rate of pet deaths in comparison to any other U.S. airline. One instance of such a casualty occurred in an United flight from Britain to Chicago, when a giant rabbit named Simon(a contender to be the largest rabbit in the world) died after being accidentally placed in a freezer for 16 hours during the trip. Following this event, United workers cremated the rabbit without the permission of the ownership group. In an investigation and lawsuit done by the owners, the airline was accused of doing so in order to destroy evidence, as an autopsy could not be performed with the cremated remains. Prior to this casualty, another problematic event involving United had occurred, garnering bad exposure for the corporation. In this incident, 69-year-old passenger David Dao was violently dragged off a United flight by police as airline workers insisted this was their provided protocol.

The grieving family involved in the latest United complication has now spoken out on the incident. According to the owners’ and surrounding passengers’ accounts, the flight was a four-hour trip from Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston, Texas) to LaGuardia Airport (New York, New York). The family’s dog was a 10-month-old French Bulldog named Kokito; though there were other factors contributing to Kokito’s death, the puppy being a bulldog and having a short snout made the animal more prone to breathing problems that it may have been vulnerable to during the flight. When the family, consisting of a mother and her two children, boarded the plane, they were told by a flight attendant to place their puppy in the overhead bin. The woman protested the request, but the attendant assured her that the dog would be safe and explained that the whole family would not be able to board if the dog was not placed in the compartment. Kokito barked in the overhead bin for two hours before stopping, and, upon the plane’s arrival to New York, he was found dead. Throughout the flight, the passengers wanted to check on the dog but, according to 11-year-old owner Sophia Ceballos, “…there was a lot of turbulence. And we weren’t allowed to stand up.” Retired airline captain Denny Kelly explains that the dog most likely ran out of oxygen in the overhead bin and suffocated, with panic and barking causing the air supply to run out faster.

Surrounding passengers in the United flight described the puppy’s death as “heartbreaking”. June Lara, a witness, reported, “There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name. 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.”

In response to the situation, United announced: “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.” According to reports, the United flight attendant is being investigated and the pet policy has been modified. In addition to these attempts for constructive changes, United has offered the family compensation, though the mother of the family has stated that the situation is not about money. The flight attendant involved in the adversity also spoke about the topic individually, claiming that she did not know the bag contained a dog, and that she “…thought it was a normal bag.” However, in a recorded interview involving Sophia Ceballos, the flight attendant was repeatedly told that the carrier contained a dog, and the family was described as adamant to the idea of storing the pet in a unit intended for inanimate luggage.

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Dog Suffocates During United Airlines Flight