United Airlines has apologised after the death of a pet dog which was stowed in an overhead luggage compartment at the request of a flight attendant. A passenger the paper spoke with, June Lara, wrote on Facebook the flight attendant "felt that the innocent animal was better off crammed inside the overhead container without air and water".
United has suffered a string of incidents that generated bad publicity in the last two years, including the violent removal of a passenger from a United Express plane to make room for a crew member, and the death of a giant rabbit - its Iowa owners sued the airline, which they said cremated the animal to destroy evidence about the cause of death.
"They assured the safety of the family's pet", she said. Passenger Maggie Gremminger heard the dog barking during the fight and were horrified to find out the dog passed away.
But Gremminger said the flight attendant, whose name she did not know, appeared distraught after the flight in NY when she learned that the dog had died.
"This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin", United said.
"I witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a woman to put her dog carrier with live dog in an overhead bin", she told One Mile at a Time, a travel website. "She sat in the airplane aisle on the floor crying, and all of surrounding passengers were utterly stunned", Gremminger wrote in a series of tweets alongside a picture of the woman and her children.
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The flight attendant, Gremminger said, seemed shaken by the incident as well.
"We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again", added Schmerin.
United's pet policy says animals must be in a carrier that can fit underneath the seat in front of the passenger. Lara claimed that flight attendants said the dog would be safe inside the compartment for three hours during the flight.
The eyewitness went on Twitter, saying that "my heart is broken".
The airline has said it will refund the cost of the tickets and pay for an autopsy as well. Although nothing can replace the dog, it's good to know United is working to get to the bottom of the situation.