United’s poor handling of pets has been in the news a lot over what’s really just the last week but given the barrage of media feels like far longer.
After forcing a dog into an overhead bin where it ultimately died, shipping a dog to Japan by mistake, and then loading a third dog onto the wrong aircraft — so for PR reasons they actually diverted that plane to deliver the dog to its proper destination, keeping all of the passengers onboard waiting, they are finally acknowledging what I’ve been saying for years: United has a problem with how it handles pets.
Their ‘PetSafe’ cargo program loses, misdirects, and kills more animals than all other US airlines combined. (Update: United acknowledges their PetSafe program kills more animals than all other airlines combined, and that while an analysis of media reports over the past few years suggests United misdirects more animals than other carriers they emphasize that there’s not DOT reporting demonstrating this.)
United is suspending new pets-as-cargo bookings while they evaluate the program.
He said the airline would consult independent experts in pet safety. He said the airline is not ending the program.
Hobart said the airline also will give airport crews more advance warning about the number and type of animals flying in cargo for each flight. He said a ramp supervisor will be required to oversee the loading and unloading of all animals in cargo, and another official will have to certify that the animals were handled properly before the flight takes off.
United expects to complete the review by May 1, and “assist any customer wishing to cancel a PetSafe reservation during the review period.”
I wouldn’t be comfortable with existing bookings and hopefully United would be willing to refund airline tickets of passengers traveling with pets as cargo so that they can find alternative transportation during this review, not merely cancelling bookings for the pets themselves.
It’s hard to see how United can justifiably refuse to do that since the transportation arrangements are made in conjunction with each other and United is essentially acknowledging that their pet shipping program is currently inadequate.