United Airlines has been garnering considerable publicity as of late, but the news has hardly been positive. For animal enthusiasts, the string of unfortunate episodes involving pets on United flights is especially disturbing.
The most shocking recent event occurred recently when a passenger’s dog passed away aboard Flight 1284 from Houston to New York after being improperly stored. In violation of United’s regulation that pets must be positioned beneath the customer’s seat, a flight attendant had erroneously instructed the dog’s owner to place the pet carrier containing her French bulldog in the overhead compartment, which lacked sufficient ventilation. After initial hesitation, the dog’s owner reluctantly obeyed the attendant’s direction. By the time the plane landed, the dog had tragically expired, to the horror of its owner and other passengers.
Regrettably, this story has not been an isolated incident for United Airlines. In fact, the company has experienced a remarkably dismal track record in regard to the handling, or rather mishandling, of pets. Just days after the Flight 1284 fiasco, a senior German shepherd bound for Kansas was mistakenly transported across international borders to Japan. When the dog’s owner went to pick up her pooch, she was flabbergasted when presented with a Great Dane instead. As it turned out, the dogs’ identities had been confused, and they were subsequently placed on incorrect flights. Luckily, both animals survived their ordeals and were returned to their respective families. One might think UA would have learned some hard lessons from these proximate blunders and acted accordingly, nevertheless another dog was wrongly boarded onto a flight the following weekend. This made for a trifecta of animal-associated errors on the part of United in a single week, resulting in avoidable suffering for all involved, human and animal alike.
In light of these somber headlines, a common concern is that the flight industry as a whole views pets as baggage rather than passengers with needs and feelings akin to their owners. Although there may be no immediate way of changing airline policies for the better, wayfaring pet parents and their furry friends are not without the support they deserve. Many animal rights organizations and travelers alike are working towards better treatment of animals on airplanes, and will hopefully be able to effectuate change for the better.
While travel insurance is a convenient means of protecting a traveler’s well-being and valuables, coverage for traveling pets is generally limited to assistance services offered by the insurer. This could entail having the assistance team help to find a local vet in the event of an emergency or help with pet transport related questions.