United Airlines is making some major changes to its pet transportation policy.
The airline announced on Tuesday that it would temporarily halt its cargo pet-shipping program after a string of mishaps.
United says it will take the next few weeks to review its safety procedures, possibly consulting independent experts. This sudden move is seen by some aviation experts as a necessary step for the airline.
Their motto is "connecting people, uniting the world." But a series of public mishaps involving man's best friend, such as the French bulldog that died after a flight attendant ordered it be placed in its carrier in the overhead bin, has caused a major disconnect between United Airlines and its pet-loving passengers.
Ron McCallum is a seasoned pilot and aviation attorney weighing in on United's decision to temporarily halt its pet-shipping business.
“I think the airlines need to take a little better look perhaps in the way they treat the animals and the way they are accounted for,” he said.
As of Tuesday, United Airlines says it will no longer take new reservations for its PetSafe program, which allows customers to ship pets in the belly of the plane.
“They're usually stowed next to a piece of luggage like a piece of luggage,” McCallum said.
Last week, United had to charter a private jet to return a German Shepard mistakenly transported to Japan. Two days later, another flight made an unplanned landing in Ohio because it was carrying a dog put on the wrong plane. Both were in cargo.
In a statement, United said, “We are conducting a thorough and systematic review of our program for pets that travel in the cargo compartment to make improvements.”
Shipping pets is growing in popularity. A new app called Digi-Pet that debuted in Dallas, tracks key metrics like temperature and oxygen levels through sensors attached to the kennel. Pet owners get alerts on their phones.
And with pets like family to travelers, McCallum says its smart for United to address the problem now.
“I think it's a wise move for United to take a step back, take a look at their procedures that are in place to make sure they are adequate,” the attorney said.
The review is expected to be finished by May 1. It does not affect pets traveling in the cabin, like the French bulldog that died. United says it will now be putting brightly colored tags on carriers containing pets.