A United flight that left George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday night went terribly wrong for a woman and her two children, who were told to put their 10-month-old French bulldog, Kokito, in the overhead bin, despite having him stored in a proper TSA-approved carrier under the seat. The woman refused, but as another passenger of the plane described on her social media page after watching the incident, the attendant was adamant about the dog going into the bin and its safety there, causing people aboard to grow concerned, and in retrospect, deeply regretful. Kokito barked a few times. But upon arrival at La Guardia three hours later, he was found to have suffocated to death.
United has since apologized and released a statement that it's looking into why a flight attendant would instruct a passenger to place her dog in the overhead compartment in the first place, but this is not the first time that the airline—most commonly frowned upon as the airline that ordered a doctor be dragged off a plane when he wouldn't give up his seat last year—has severely messed up when it comes to the treatment of pets as well as living, breathing humans.
Just last August, another Houston family's 5-year-old dog, Lulu, died in the cargo hold after a United flight was delayed on the runway at IAH for two hours, midday in August, before a four-hour flight to San Francisco in which there was possibly something wrong with the air conditioning as well. Months before that, Simon, the world's largest rabbit at the time, mysteriously died in a United cargo hold while flying out of the ever-unfortunately named O'Hare airport.
In fact, United had the worst U.S. record of pet deaths among the country's airlines in 2016, and the Boston Globe reports that Simon the rabbit's owners have even alleged in a lawsuit that it accounts for one-third of all airline pet deaths over the last five years. If that's the case, 2018 isn't sounding much better.
Maybe if you care about your pet, and actually do travel with her or him, it's time to think about your options.