A United flight from Newark, New Jersey, to St. Louis was diverted Thursday after the airline learned it had an unauthorized passenger on board: a dog.
United Airlines has had an in-flight incident involving a dog.
No, not the one about the French bulldog that died in the overhead bin.
Or the one where a German shepherd was sent to Japan instead of Kansas.
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A United flight from Newark, New Jersey, to St. Louis was diverted Thursday after the airline learned it had an unauthorized passenger on board: a dog. The pet was bound for Akron, Ohio, but was mistakenly loaded onto the St. Louis flight, company spokeswoman Natalie Noonan said Saturday.
And so the plane followed the dog’s itinerary. Flight 3996 banked toward northeast Ohio after the airline “chose the fastest option to reunite the dog with his family,” Noonan said.
Passengers were provided compensation for the delay, Noonan said, but she declined to describe the compensation or confirm how many passengers were onboard. CNN reported 33.
Ian Petchenic, a spokesman for the flight-data company Flightradar24, said the flight averages about two hours. This was a four-hour journey, with roughly an hour and a half spent on the ground in Akron after diverting near Columbus, he said.
The incident was United’s third dog-related mishap in one week; fortunately, this time, it led to a happier conclusion than the first.
On Monday, a French bulldog puppy named Kokito suffocated in an overhead bin, after a flight attendant insisted the owner stow the dog there for a three-hour flight from Houston to New York.
“This little guy fought hard for his life, filling our flight with his cries until he finally ran out of breath,” passenger June Lara wrote on Facebook after the incident. “United Airlines does not care about the safety of their furry travelers. This poor family paid $125 for their pet to be murdered in front of them.”
United said it would take full responsibility for the “tragic accident that should never have occurred” and that pets should never be placed in the overhead bins. French bulldogs often develop respiratory problems, partly because of the way their faces are shaped, and are prone to heart defects and other diseases.
The Transportation Department is investigating the incident.
Sens. John Kennedy, R-La., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., introduced a bill Thursday to prohibit airlines from storing animals in overhead compartments. The bill is called Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act, or WOOFF.
And the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, in Texas, told a local news outlet that its animal-cruelty task force would conduct an investigation into the death.
On Tuesday, another case of mistaken canine identity occurred on a United flight, sending a dog owner into a frenzy when she discovered a Great Dane in the place of her German shepherd, Irgo, in a facility at the Kansas City airport.
Kara Swindle paid to ship Irgo as cargo on a flight from Oregon to Kansas, but instead the German shepherd was put on a flight to Japan. The mix-up occurred during connecting flights in Denver. The airline vowed to return both dogs to their respective owners, and on Thursday, Irgo’s journey of thousands of miles ended in a happy, tail-wagging reunion.
Noonan declined to say if the company is creating or modifying regulations after the rash of dog-related mishaps.
The company appears especially challenged by pet incidents. Last year, the airline, one of the largest in the world, carried about a quarter of the total number of animals transported by air in the United States, but it was responsible for 18 of the 25, or more than 70 percent, of flight-related pet deaths last year, according to Transportation Department data.