A passenger onboard a United flight from Houston to New York City claims a dog died after a flight crew member forced the owner to put the dog in an overhead bin, The Points Guy reported.
Even though the animal was reportedly in an approved carrier, which is designed to be stowed under the seat in front of a passenger, it was kept in the overhead space designed for luggage for the duration of the flight.
Passengers could reportedly hear the animal barking at times. At the end of the flight, they learned the animal had died.
According to the pet policy listed on United’s site, “A pet traveling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.”
In a statement, United accepted responsibility for the incident.
“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” United said in a statement to The Points Guy. “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.”
The incident comes as many airlines are cracking down on passengers with animals, particularly emotional support animals.
This isn’t the first time an animal has died due to alleged misinformation. In February, a student named Belen Aldecosea was flying to Florida when she was told her emotional support hamster would not be able to travel with her. The student claims a gate agent told her to flush her pet down an airport toilet in order to get home.
“I didn’t have any other options,” Aldecosea told the Miami Herald. “[Pebbles] was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet ... I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”
However, Spirit Airlines denied any agent would suggest killing an animal as an option: “After researching this incident, we can say confidently that at no point did any of our agents suggest this Guest (or any other for that matter) should flush or otherwise injure an animal.”
If you’re planning to travel with a pet, check your airline's website for any rules and restrictions prior to departure. That way, you’ll be prepared and understand both the fees and any restrictions.