A Shocking Number of Pets Died On U.S. Air Carriers Last Year (And One Airline is Responsible for Most)

Dog-loving hearts around the country broke upon learning that a pup died on a United Airlines flight, which certainly didn’t improve United’s faltering reputation. The dog, a 10-month-old French bulldog, died during the trip after flight attendants forced his owner to put him in the overhead compartment. By the time the plane landed, the dog was dead.

This incident was absolutely tragic, but unfortunately, it isn’t as rare as you might think. Flying with your pet is sometimes a necessity, but these troubling statistics make it seem unsafe.

Kokito was the latest victim

The dog was placed in an overhead bin. | kokito_the_savage via Instagram

Kokito was the 10-month-old pup aboard the fateful United flight. According to witnesses, his owner was traveling with her 11-year-old daughter and newborn baby. A flight attendant insisted the woman put her pup’s carrier in the overhead bins because it was blocking the aisle. The flight attendant claimed she didn’t know there was a dog in the carrier, but multiple passengers (including the woman’s daughter) dispute that claim.

Poor Kokito didn’t make it through the four-hour flight, and the woman discovering his dead body was traumatizing for the passengers and the children onboard. The investigation is still pending.

Next: This is how many pets died on flights in 2017.

This is how many pet died on planes in 2017

airplane flying
In 2017, 24 pets lost their lives aboard airplanes. | Ep_stock/iStock/Getty Images

According to data from the Department of Transportation, a whopping 24 pets lost their lives on planes in 2017. Considering about 2 million animals fly every year, that doesn’t seem like many — until you realize that United Airlines was responsible for 18 of those 24 deaths. It seems that flying with animals is relatively safe on other major airlines, but United is falling short.

Next: United’s reaction

United takes the blame

United airlines airplane in the newark airport.
The airline took responsibility. | Muratani/iStock/Getty Images

United Airlines issued a statement on March 13 saying it took full responsibility for the “tragic accident” and said it was conducting a full investigation. But a United spokesperson is already saying an overwhelming number of the pets deaths were due to things beyond the airline’s control, such as preexisting medical conditions.

Next: United’s troubled reputation

This doesn’t help United’s situation

economy flight check in
The airline has had a lot of bad press lately. | Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images

United Airlines doesn’t have the best track record. The are officially one of the most hated airlines in the country due to their serious customer service issues, especially the incident where they dragged a passenger off a plane. This is part of the reason why people aren’t so quick to forgive this latest accident where Kokito lost his life.

Next: United’s big plan

How can United stop this from happening?

cat closed inside pet carrier in airport
United will issue specific bag tags to anyone with a pet. | emariya/iStock/Getty Images

Going forward, United plans to issue brightly colored bag tags to anyone traveling with pets to prevent animals carriers from being placed in overhead bins again. It also claims anytime there is a pet death incident, it is thoroughly investigated in hopes of preventing it from ever happening again.

Next: This has gotten so bad that even our politicians are taking notice.

A senator speaks up

John Neely Kennedy
The senator is pushing for more protection for pets. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. John Kennedy from Louisiana issued a statement demanding answers from United Airlines and vowing to pass more laws in support of pets and pet owners.

“For many people, pets are members of the family. They should not be treated like insignificant cargo,” Kennedy said in a letter to United Airlines President Scott Kirby. “Frankly, they shouldn’t be placed in the cargo hold much less an overhead bin.”

Next: Here’s what you can do to keep your pups safe.

Is flying with your pet safe?

Airport lounge
There are certain safety measures you should take. | iStock.com/Martin Barraud

Understandably, this has raised some concerns about flying with pets. But since sometimes bringing our four-legged friends along is unavoidable, your best bet is to take measures to ensure their safety. The ASPCA suggests booking a direct flight if possible, purchasing a USDA-approved shipping crate, and telling every single airline employee you meet about your pet companion. While they’re typically safe in the cargo hold, you should never, ever put them in the overhead compartments.

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