Published: Wed, March 21, 2018
Markets | By Josh Butler

United suspends pet cargo flights after negative incidents regarding animals aboard planes

United suspends pet cargo flights after negative incidents regarding animals aboard planes

The decision came after, in what was the latest of pet-related incidents involving the airline, a dog died in the overhead bin of a United Airlines aircraft after its owner was reportedly told by a flight attendant to place the animal there.

A few days later, a dog that was supposed to go to Kansas was mistakenly shipped to Japan. The plane made an extra stop in Akron, where it was reunited with its family.

The carrier said the review is expected to be finished by May 1.

Though United is temporarily pausing its program for pets traveling in cargo, the suspension will not affect pets that are traveling with their owners in cabins.

Under the new rules, animals are not allowed in cabins outside carriers without documents certifying they are in good health and have been trained to behave appropriately in public settings. Of the more than 500,000 animals on flights with U.S. carriers, 24 died in transit; of those, 18 were on United, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.

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The latter has become a point of controversy for United and other airlines since emotional support animals don't require special training, just a note from a licensed medical professional stating that the animal is necessary to the passenger's mental and emotional health.

United's announcement on Tuesday mentions that the company is reviewing its service for cabin-flying pets and will "issue bright colored bag tags to help better identify pets who are traveling in-cabin".

United's PetSafe program is an option for passengers with pets that are not eligible for travel in-cabin; animals travel in pressurized, climate-controlled compartments similar to passenger cabins.

"It's not like other [outside the continental United States] stations where multiple airlines fly out, like Japan or Germany", she said.

"Our immediate focus right now is improving our services for our customers and pets", Hobart said. Additionally, it's partnering with independent experts in travel safety for pets.

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