Skip to content

A Bad Week for Pets Flying United


United Airlines have run into trouble in recent years regarding their handling of pets. There have been several high-profile incidents of pets dying in transit. In 2016, it was revealed that more pets had died during the year whilst flying with United in the US than with any other carrier. However, in the airline’s defence, it had carried more pets than any other airline in the country.

Nine pets died in 2016 whilst flying United which sounds pretty awful but a massive 109,149 travelled with the airline across the year – almost 20,000 more than with any other carrier. But now the airline has hit the headlines again, and it is going to be difficult to explain away three recent incidents involving animals.

Dog Placed on Wrong Flight

March 2018, a United flight was diverted to Akron, Ohio when it was realised that a pet had been loaded onto the plane in error. Flight 3996 was carrying 33 passengers from Newark, New Jersey, to St. Louis, but the pet was supposed to be flying to Akron. United offered compensation to all of the affected passengers although the airline hasn’t provided details of the compensation awarded. The unidentified pet was safely returned to its owners.

This story was big news stateside as the error occurred hot on the heels of two other serious incidents. The previous week a 10-year-old German shepherd named Irgo was flown to Japan when he was supposed to be going to Kansas. A Great Dane that was supposed to be travelling to Japan arrived in Irgo’s place. The dogs did eventually end up in the right locations and United apologised profusely for the switch.

Dog Forced into Overhead Locker

Sadly, a third mistake resulted in the death of a dog. A French bulldog died on a Houston-to-New York flight after a United flight attendant told its owners to put the carrier in an overhead bin! The dog’s owner told the attendant that the carrier contained a dog but she evidently did not hear this or did not understand what the passenger had said. A US senator was so angry, he demanded an explanation from United.

For its part, the airline has apologised for the tragedy and offered its condolences. In order to prevent any further incidents, United Airlines is going to issue brightly-coloured bags to its customers who are travelling with pets. It is hard to imagine how a loud bag could be more obvious than a dog but hey!

It is far more common for passengers to fly with their pets in the US than it is in Europe. Pets are often allowed in the passenger cabin and that isn’t usually a problem. It seems a little crazy that a flight attendant didn’t recognise a pet carrier and one wonders why the dog’s owners didn’t refuse to allow the carrier to be placed in the overhead bin.

What would you do in this situation? We’re betting that most pet owners would cause an enormous stink and refuse to fly.


We are very sorry, but the browser you are visting us with is outdated and not complient with our website security.

Please upgrade your browser to a modern secure version to view our website.