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United suspends pet cargo service in wake of mix-ups, dog death

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 11:56 AM

United Airlines has suspended its PetSafe pet cargo program following multiple incidents involving pets. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
United Airlines has suspended its PetSafe pet cargo program following multiple incidents involving pets. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

United Airlines is suspending its PetSafe pet cargo program while it reviews the program. 

The suspension comes after a series of pet-related incidents, including one death, on the airline.

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The Chicago Tribune reported that United will honor reservations that have already been confirmed for the service, which books pets in the cargo section of the plane.

“We are conducting a thorough and systematic review of our program for pets that travel in the cargo compartment to make improvements that will ensure the best possible experience for our customers and their pets,” United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the airline will stop taking reservations for the program until May 1.

Related: Dog dies on United Airlines flight after being placed in overhead bin

Spokesman Charlie Hobart told Bloomberg that part of the review of the program includes the airline considering which pets to accept. Bloomberg reported that United had previously been willing to transport dogs with an increased likelihood of in-flight death or injury, such as brachycephalic, of snub-nosed dogs.

On March 12, a French bulldog puppy died on a flight from Houston to New York when its owners said a United flight attendant insisted the pet be stored in an overhead bin. United issued a statement saying it took “full responsibility” for the death.

“This was a tragic accident that should have never occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” United said in a statement March 13. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Related: ‘She took him out and he was dead:’ Owners of dog that died in United overhead bin speak out

On Tuesday, a German shepherd named Irgo was mistakenly flown to Japan in place of a Great Dane. Irgo was supposed to go to Kansas, where his family was moving from Oregon. The dog was reunited with his family Thursday.

Related: Dog mistakenly sent on United plane to Japan reunites with family in Kansas

On Friday, the airline mistakenly had a pet boarded on a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to St. Louis. Flight 3996 was diverted to Akron, Ohio, when the error was realized, according to airline spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin. The animal was “safely delivered to its owner.” Compensation aas given to passengers on the diverted flight.

According to data from the Department of Transportation, United Airlines had the highest rate of airline reports on incidents involving loss, injury or death of animals during air transportation in 2017.

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