United Suspends Cargo Program for Pets

Gladys Abbott
March 21, 2018

United Airlines is pausing its reservations for pets traveling in the cargo compartment after three dogs were loaded onto the wrong planes last week and a fourth died in an overhead bin.

United Airlines said no new reservations will be accepted for the cargo program, called PetSafe, but the company will honor existing reservations confirmed as of March 20.

United had the worst rate of pet deaths in 2017 of any USA airline, according to the Department of Transportation's Air Travel Consumer Report.

The carrier's move does not impact customers bringing pets in the cabin like the French bulldog that died last week after a flight attendant ordered its owner to store a carrier holding the 10-month puppy in the overhead bin. The customers have disputed that claim. The second incident involved a PetSafe-fare dog accidentally shipped to Japan instead of Kansas City, Missouri, after a mix-up United said happened in Denver. The review is expected to be complete by May 1.

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And last Thursday, a flight destined for St. Louis took a detour to drop off a pet flying in the cargo bay after the airline discovered it was supposed to arrive in Akron, Ohio.

United did not identify specific aspects of the PetSafe program it's targeting for review but said it plans to work with independent experts in pet safety, comfort and travel. The suspension does not affect pets that travel in United's passenger cabins, which require medical authorization. United says they expect the review to be finished by May 1st. United accounted for 18 of the 24 deaths of animals on airliners that year, the report said.

In addition to conducting a review, United recently updated its guidelines for dogs traveling in bags. The Humane Society of the United States generally recommends against having your pet fly in the cargo compartment.

In the past, the carrier has been willing to transport certain types of dogs with a particularly high likelihood of death or injury, including snub-nosed dogs.

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