By Steve Almasy
HOUSTON (CNN) — In the wake of social media outrage over reports that a dog died on one of its flights Monday night after being put in an overhead bin, United Airlines acknowledged in a statement that a “tragic accident” had occurred.
“Pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” the airline said in reply Tuesday to CNN’s request for comment about reports of the dog’s death. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin later said that United has been in contact with the passenger who owned the dog and offered to pay for a necropsy, an autopsy for animals.
When asked about reports a flight attendant had told the passenger the dog needed to be put in the overhead bin, Schmerin said she couldn’t comment.
United allows pets in the cabin when they are transported in kennels that can fit under the seat. Some types of animals are prohibited from flying on any flight. Schmerin said this animal was not on that list.
The trip from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston to LaGuardia Airport in New York took about 3½ hours, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.
According to a US Department of Transportation report issued in February, 24 animals died in the care of US carriers last year. Three-quarters of those, 18, died while being handled by United. Of 15 reported injuries, 13 occurred with United.
Of the problems documented in the DOT report, which include death, injury and loss of animals, United had the highest rate of incidents: For every 10,000 animals transported, United had 2.24 incidents.
The airline was also 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 the rate of United.
Several of the animals had pre-existing health issues, the report said, and some incidents happened before the animals were put on planes.
The report includes information about dogs, cats, birds and other pets.
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