A dog accompanied its owner on a United Airlines flight on Monday, but the animal didn’t make it off the plane alive, according to passengers.
June Lara, one of the passengers who witnessed the incident, said on Facebook that a flight attendant “insisted” that a woman place her dog carrier in the overhead bin as they were boarding the Houston, Texas flight bound for LaGuardia (in New York City), ABC News reported.
“They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed,” Lara wrote.
He says the dog remained in the bin for the three-hour flight, and wasn’t given any water, ABC News reported.
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The woman, who was with her two daughters, had been asked to move the dog carrier because it was sticking out into the aisle, CNBC reported.
Maggie Gremminger, another fellow passenger, told People that the black French bulldog barked from the bin at least 30 minutes into the flight. But when the owner finally retrieved her it was too late, she said. The dog had died.
The woman was “crying in the airplane aisle on the floor,” Gremminger wrote on Facebook, CNBC reported.
Gremminger told People that the flight attendant who moved the dog seemed “frazzled” and said she didn’t know a live animal was in the carrier.
United confirmed the dog’s death, calling it a “tragic accident that should have never occurred,” ABC News reported.
“We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them,” the airline said in a statement. “We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”
The Associated Press reported that the dog’s cause of death wasn’t immediately known. A United spokesman said the airline offered to pay for a necropsy.
According to United Airlines’ policy, “domesticated” cats, dogs, rabbits and household birds are allowed to travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin on most flights within the U.S. An in-cabin pet can be carried in addition to a carry-on, for a fee.
Eighteen animals died while being transported on United last year, the AP reported. There were six cases on all other U.S. carriers combined, according to the Department of Transportation.