A dog died on a United Airlines flight from Houston to New York after a flight attendant apparently insisted a woman put the puppy in an overhead bin, according to multiple reports, and the airline has called the incident a "tragedy."
The incident, first reported on The Points Guy blog, happened on Monday night when the attendant apparently told the woman to put the TSA-approved pet carrier in the overhead bin.
“The flight attendant told the passenger that her bag was blocking part of the aisle," passenger Maggie Gremminger told People. "I could not see it, as I was already in my seat, but it sounded like it was somehow not completely fitting beneath the seat in front of her. After the flight attendant asked her to move it above, the woman adamantly refused, communicating her dog was in the bag. There was some back and forth before finally the flight attendant convinced her to move the carrier to the bin above.”
Gremminger said she is haunted by the sound of the black French bulldog barking during the flight, and then falling silent. The owner did not discover the dog had died until after the plane landed.
June Lara, who was on the flight, wrote about the incident on Facebook:
"There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name. I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy. I cried with them three minutes later as she sobbed over his lifeless body. My heart broke with theirs as I realized he was gone."
A United Airlines spokesperson sent a statement to The Points Guy:
“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. 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 airline issued a similar statement to CNN on Tuesday.
Spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin also told CNN that United has been in contact with the dog owner and has offered to pay for a necropsy, an autopsy for animals.
When asked about the reports that a flight attendant had told the passenger the dog needed to be put in the overhead bin, Schmerin said she couldn't comment.
United allows pets in the cabin when they are transported in kennels that can fit under the seat. Some types of animals are prohibited from flying on any flight. Schmerin said this animal was not on that list.
The cause of death is unclear, however air circulation is minimal inside overhead bins. While the bins are pressurized, a lack of airflow may have caused the dog to suffocate.
The trip from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston to LaGuardia Airport in New York took about 3 1/2 hours, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.
According to a U.S. Department of Transportation report issued in February, 24 animals died in the care of U.S. carriers last year. Three-quarters of those, 18, died while being handled by United.
Of 15 reported injuries, 13 occurred with United.
Of the problems documented in the federal report, which include death, injury and loss of animals, United had the highest rate of incidents: For every 10,000 animals transported, United had 2.24 incidents.
The airline was also the largest transporter of animals, carrying 138,178 animals in 2017. Alaska Airlines, which transported the next-highest number of animals (114,974), had an incident rate of 0.26, one-tenth the rate of United.
Several of the animals had pre-existing health issues, the report said, and some incidents happened before the animals were put on planes.
The report includes information about dogs, cats, birds and other pets.