United Airlines halts pet-hauling service after dog death, other miscues

United Airlines announced the move following a bruising week of public relations fiascoes involving pets.
United Airlines announced the move following a bruising week of public relations fiascoes involving pets.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - United Continental Holdings Inc is halting reservations for its animal transport service after drawing worldwide scorn in recent weeks for the death of a dog and other miscues in handling pets.

The airline will review the procedures for its PetSafe programme until May 1, including which breeds of dogs it will accept, according to a statement on Tuesday (March 20).

During that time, the carrier will honour existing reservations without accepting new ones for the service, which is for animals travelling in the cargo hold.

United announced the move following a bruising week of public relations fiascoes involving pets. A French bulldog died on March 12 after a flight attendant had the dog and its animal crate placed in an overhead bin.

In a separate incident, the airline sent a Kansas-bound German shepherd to Japan.

A US senator said United's handling of pets was "simply inexcusable", saying 18 of 24 animals that died on a major airline last year were in the airline's care.

Since the PetSafe service is for animals in the freight compartment, different procedures for the programme wouldn't have helped protect the bulldog, which died in the passenger cabin.

 
 
 

United has already announced a plan starting April to issue brightly colored bag tags to identify in-cabin pets.

The service suspension won't affect those animals.

Among other issues under examination in PetSafe, United will consider which pets to accept, said Mr Charlie Hobart, a spokesman for the Chicago-based airline.

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.