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Tag: air travel

1 day later, United screws the pooch again


A day after a passenger was instructed to put her dog in an overhead bin — an order that turned out to be fatal — United has screwed up again, this time accidentally sending a family’s dog to Japan instead of Kansas City.

Kara and Joseph Swindle, along with their children, were moving from Oregon to Wichita. But their German Shepherd, Irgo — traveling as cargo on an earlier flight — was mistakenly shipped to Japan.

When the Swindles arrived at the Kansas City cargo facility to pick up their dog, they were greeted instead by a Great Dane, who was supposed to have been the one loaded on the flight to Japan.

The airline originally told the Swindles that Irgo would have to stay in quarantine in Japan for two weeks, but apparently that was not required. The dog was scheduled to see a veterinarian before being put on a return flight to Wichita.

Kara Swindle told KCTV5 News that United didn’t know how the mistake happened, but she was told by the airline that the kennels were similar.

United Airlines paid for Swindle and her children to stay at a Marriott Hotel near the airport Tuesday night.

“At this point, all I can do is be hopeful that my dog is going to be okay and return safely,” she said. “I don’t know what else to do at this point. I can’t cry anymore. I’ve cried too much.”

The screw-up came on the heels of a far worse one, in which a United flight attendant told a family to put their dog and its carrier in the overhead bin.

“The flight attendant came, and she was like, ‘You have to put him up there because it’s going to block the path,'” Sophia Ceballos, 11, told ABC News on behalf of her mother, Catalina Robledo, who isn’t fluent in English.

The 10-month-old French Bulldog was discovered dead after the plane landed.

Sophia Ceballos said the flight attendant, after landing, said she didn’t know there was a dog in the bag.

“In the end, she says she didn’t know it was a dog, but she actually touched the bag and felt him there. She’s basically lying to us now,” Sophia said.

(Photos: Kara Swindle)

United Airlines kills another dog


United Airlines is admitting a flight attendant violated policy by insisting a passenger place her dog in an overhead bin during a flight from Houston to New York.

The dog was found dead in its carrier after the flight landed at LaGuardia Airport Monday night.

In a statement, United called the dog’s death a “tragic accident.”

Spokesman Charlie Hobart told CNN a flight attendant should not have told the passenger to put the dog in the bin used for carry-on bags.

“We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them,” the airline said Tuesday. “We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”

The death occurred after a passenger brought the dog, identified as a 10-month-old French bulldog, on board in a TSA-approved pet carrier.

After the passenger took a seat, a United flight attendant insisted that the carrier — and dog — be stowed in an overhead bin, according to at least one witness.

Maggie Gremminger said the traveler with the dog protested the attendant’s order to put the pet carrier into the overhead bin, but that the attendant persisted.

Gremminger posted a photo of the grieving woman on Twitter (above) after the flight.

“The passenger adamantly refused but the flight attendant went on with the instruction,” Gremminger wrote. “At the end of the flight – the dog was found dead in the carrier. I am heart broken right now.”

united2United and other airlines generally allow pets to be carried on board provided they’re in carriers that can fit under the seat in front of the owner. Of all airlines, United has the worst pet safety record.

According to a recent U.S. Department of Transportation report, 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.

The airline is 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 of United’s industry-leading rate of 2.24 for every 10,000 animals transported.

Several of the animals had pre-existing health issues, the report said, and some incidents happened before the animals were put on planes.

A United spokeswoman said the airline has been in contact with the passenger who owned the dog and offered to pay for a necropsy.

(Photo: Maggie Gremminger/Twitter)

Making air travel a lot more tolerable — at least for animals


Imagine a brand new airport terminal that features a swimming pool, private suites with flat screen TV’s, around the clock medical care and a spa with massage services.

Sorry, it’s not for you. It’s for dogs, and other animals.

The $65 million terminal at New York’s Kennedy Airport is scheduled to open later this month, a 178,000-square-foot facility called the ARK that will help process animals arriving and departing on international flights — dogs, cats, birds, horses and even cattle.

That’s right, cattle could soon be receiving far more luxurious travel services while we humans continue to be treated more and more like cattle when we choose to travel by air.

The facility will hold newly arriving animals from outside the country, and those being quarantined and, for those in need of additional services, the premises will include a pet resort, veterinarians and groomers.

poolThe ARK sits on 14.5 acres of land in a cargo area near the runways. It replaces Vetport, a facility that opened in 1951 and had a less than pristine reputation.

The new facility is billed by developer Racebrook Capital as the “world’s only privately owned animal terminal and USDA-approved, full-service, 24-hour, airport quarantine facility for import and export of horses, pets, birds and livestock.”

Company owner John Cuticelli says he expects about 5,000 horses, 10,000 small pets like dogs and cats, and hundreds of thousands of birds to come through the facility each year.

The company has signed a 30-year lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, according to the New York Post, which was recently given a tour of the new facility.

The Ark features a large animal departure lounge offering stalls, food and water for horses, individual climate-controlled units for horses, equipped with bedding and natural light, a veterinary hospital offering general and emergency care, a Paradise 4 Paws pet resort featuring a bone-shaped dog pool and a jungle gym for cats, and grooming, training and massage therapy.

“Right now, animals can wait four or five hours on the tarmac or in the cargo facility because there is no other way to process them,” Cuticelli said. “The ARK will be focused on the safe and humane transportation of animals.”

LAX dogs provide different kind of security


From an Irish wolfhound named Finn to a Rottweiler named Maggie Mae, 29 dogs of various breeds are providing a different kind of security for travelers at Los Angeles International Airport.

The dogs have been comforting frazzled travelers for a year now, through a program called PUP, or Pets Unstressing Passengers.

finnFinn started last November, the day after a gunman opened fire at Terminal 3 and left a Transportation Security Administration officer dead, according to the Los Angeles Times

“I think after the shooting, Finn attracted attention because he represented something comforting,” owner Brian Valente said in an airport statement. “As passengers asked questions about Finn and started to pet him, I could see their bodies relax and their demeanors change.”

The one-year anniversary of the program was marked yesterday at a meeting of the L.A. Board  of Airport Commissioners.

The dogs all wear bright red vests, and mingle with passengers in post-security-screening areas. The program is aimed at reducing the anxiety of travelers by letting them pet and play with the dogs.

The dogs are registered with Therapy Dogs, a national organization that supports pets that visit places such as hospitals, nursing homes and other special needs centers.

To see more of the dogs, click here.

(Photos: Los Angeles World Airports)

Delta Air Lines stops flying bulldogs

Your bulldog is no longer welcome on Delta Air Lines, and it’s for their own good.

As we reported last summer, short-snouted dogs run a far higher risk of death when it comes to air travel, with bulldogs heading the list of cargo hold fatalities, according to federal government statistics.

Bulldogs, pugs and other snub-nosed breeds for whom its harder to take in oxygen accounted for about half of the purebred dog deaths on airplanes in the past five years, the data showed.

Since then two air lines have stop accepting bulldogs as passengers, most recently Delta, which based on its review of animal incidents last year, has opted to no longer carry American, English and French bulldogs.

Of the 16 pets that died on Delta flights in 2010, six were bulldogs.

Animal advocates are praising the decision, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“We’re pleased that Delta is being attentive and responsive to the particular animal welfare concerns with bulldogs,” said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer of the Humane Society of the United States. Shipping pets in cargo holds “really should only be a last resort, when absolutely necessary,” he said.

Other major carriers have restrictions on bulldogs and some other breeds, or decline to carry any pets in their cargo holds. AirTran Airways and Southwest Airlines only accept pets that fit in under-seat carriers. American Airlines stopped carrying snub-nosed dogs and cats last November.

Delta had already restricted a wide range of snub-nosed breeds from flying in hot weather, including pit bulls, pugs and Persian cats.

U.S. Department of Transportation data shows that 122 dogs died on airlines from May 2005 to May 2010. Of those, 25 were English bulldogs and six were French bulldogs.

The first and last flight of Snickers the cat

I feel bad for what happened to Snickers the cat. But to be brutally honest, I’m having a hard time working up much sympathy for her owner.

Snickers died last week, shortly after arrival at the Hartford airport aboard Delta Flight 738.

Airline officials had promised Heather Lombardi, who had purchased the cat from a breeder in Utah and was having her delivered, that the cargo hold the cat would travel in was climate controlled.

If you can’t guess what happened next, here’s some additional information:

Snickers was 11 weeks old.

Snickers was a Sphynx, or hairless cat.

It is winter, and a particularly cold one.

Once a plane lands, the cargo area is depressurized, and that climate control stuff doesn’t apply anymore.

Lombardi sent out an email blast to tell the world about “the worst tragedy I have ever personally experienced” — not to gain pity, or money, or, we’d hope, bolster her odds in a lawsuit. Instead, she says, she wanted to inform the world of the dangers of shipping a cat, by air, in winter.

With her two children, Lombardi arrived at the airport and was told to wait in the baggage area. Fifty minutes passed after the flight landed, the delay in unloading baggage being caused at least partly by a cargo hold latch that was stuck, she was told.

“I wasn’t incredibly alarmed … I figured she would be fine as long as she wasn’t outdoors,” wrote Lombardi, who paid $290 to transport Snickers. Outdoors, it was 7 degrees.

Upon being handed the crate, Lombardi opened it and pulled Snickers out:

“The kitten was ICE cold, limp, and unresponsive. I IMMEDIATELY put her into my coat, grabbed my kids by the hands & ran out of the airport to get her into my car & cranked up the heat putting all vents on her as I rubbed her trying to warm her up. She couldn’t lift or control any limbs, her breathing was labored, she had a blank stare in her eyes, and she let out a meow. As if to say help me — please. We rushed her to the emergency vet clinic, but to my utter devastation, on the drive, she let out a blood curdling cry & went completely limp …”

Ten minutes after handing the apparently lifeless cat to the vet, Lombardi was informed that Snickers was indeed dead.

“Her last hour of life was spent frozen & unable to escape. I am so utterly devastated — I cannot express to anyone how this feels. I am so sad for her, her little 11 week life lost for no reason. A tragedy that could have been prevented if the airline had valued her little promising life.”

Delta told her it is investigating, but, she said, “the bottom line is that they can’t bring her back to me or my family, there is nothing they can say or do to make this whole. We don’t want a new kitten; we fell in love with HER. She was our new child & there is nothing that can be done to bring her home to us. Snickers lost her life unnecessarily …  Value life everyone, I have just experienced something I pray no one else has too. Don’t let Snickers lost life be in vain, I pray you guys read this & maybe another animals life won’t be lost to the cold & lonely Delta Cargo holds.”

Reading over her summary of events, what stuns me most is that a customer would even consider having an 11-week-old hairless cat transported by air in the dead of winter. That the breeder would permit it is surprising as well. That Delta signed off on it is equally shocking.

So, much as we regret Snickers’ passing, we, unlike Lombardi, wouldn’t aim our anger solely at Delta. There appear to be plenty of humans to share the blame, including the one who — though her subsequent warning not to ship animals when it’s below 30 degrees is valid — probably should have done a little more research and used a little more common sense before having her new hairless cat placed on a plane.

And we have to wonder a little bit, too — coldhearted as it may be at her time of clearly anguishing loss — why, any allergies aside, someone would opt for a pricey, high-maintenance novelty pet from the other side of the country when hundreds of cats are in the Hartford area’s animal shelters, waiting for homes.

Heather Lombardi responds: 

“… I first wanted to thank you for bringing attention to what happened to Snickers. Knowledge is power & even if you don’t agree with my actions & poor decision, not everyone knows or understands the risks of placing your pets in a climate controlled cargo hold. I myself was guilty of that. I do not place blame solely on Delta, my lack of knowledge & belief that travel was safe for animals in this weather was the obvious reason she was on the flight. It’s why I decided to share her story. She died due to my lack of knowledge & an obvious service failure on Delta’s behalf. I can’t control Delta, their practices or policies, what I can control is how I handle the situation. I choose to raise awareness, and I thank you for helping with that.”

When dogs fly: More deaths in cargo

The deaths of seven puppies flying in the cargo hold of an American Airlines jet have added to the growing concerns about pets and air travel.

A shipper last week checked 14 puppies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a flight to Chicago, according to SmartTravel.com. Despite the airline’s policy against carrying pets when outside temperatures are expected to exceed 85 degrees, the puppies were in the cargo hold as temperatures on the tarmac rose to 87 degrees by the time the delayed flight departed.

When the flight arrived in Chicago, the puppies were lethargic and in visible distress. They were taken to a vet’s office, but five died initially and two others died later, according to the Associated Press

The airline declined to identify the shipper, or the breed of the puppies. Animals traveling as cargo on American must be at least eight weeks old, and the airline doesn’t allow dogs or cats that have been sedated.

An airline spokesperson said cargo holds carrying animals are routinely kept between 50 and 70 degrees.

But experts — and statistics — say we shouldn’t count on that.

The deaths come a month after the U.S. Department of Transportation warned that short-snouted dogs such as pugs and bulldogs accounted for about half of the 122 dogs that died during U.S. flights in the last five years.

Add in the tales of dogs getting lost at airports and the best advice is to, whenever possible, avoid shipping a pet as air cargo. There are other alternatives — from using Pet Airways, where pets ride in crates in the cabin, to driving, as Ed Perkins of SmartTravel.com notes in a recent column.

The ASPCA recommends that owners avoid shipping pets in the cargo hold, and offers these tips for those who can’t.