A family became heartbroken on Monday March 12th after their beloved French bulldog Kokito, who was only ten months old at the time, perished after being placed in an overhead bin at the insistence of a flight attendant. While the incident is still being investigated by airline officials, this is not the only pet-related incident that has occurred recently. In order to help spread awareness about pet safety, we’ve put together this article on flying with a dog safely & how to transport pets; we’ve also included some additional information about Kokito’s death on the United flight, to highlight the contrast between a successful pet transportation and dogs on airplanes and one that ends in tragedy (through no fault of the owner’s in this case). There are two main factors that are key to safe pet travel: using the right carrier and knowing both the rules and your rights as a pet owner.
- Use the right carrier. When flying with a dog on an airplane, it’s important to use a TSA-approved pet carrier to hold your pet. Make sure to refer to the guidelines of your specific airline for information on what types of carriers they allow (there are often size limits and other rules). It’s important that your pet has enough space in the carrier to be comfortable; they should have enough room to be able to stand and shift position if they want to. The carrier must also have adequate ventilation so that air can circulate through the carrier enough for your pet to be able to breathe.
- Be familiar with the rules (and your rights). In addition to using the right type of pet carrier, it’s important to know the airline’s rules, as well as your rights as a pet owner, when bringing your beloved pet with you on a flight. Most airlines have specific rules both for flying with a dog with you in the cabin area and for transporting your pet in the pet holding area of the plane. For in-cabin transport, the carrier must be TSA-approved and fit underneath the space under the seat in front of you (and remain there for the duration of the flight). In the case of the dog who died on the United flight, the owner did in fact follow all the rules and guidelines for having her pet with her in the cabin. It’s currently unknown why the flight attendant demanded that the owner place her pet in the overhead bin instead of following established airline guidelines; since there is no real ventilation in those overhead bins and it’s expressly forbidden to put pets there because of that, it is quite clear that this is what led to the dog’s death during the course of the three hour flight. If a situation like this ever happens to you (where you’re following all the rules but an airline employee is forcing you to instead do something strange and potentially dangerous to your pet), we recommend asking to speak with a more experienced flight attendant on-board the flight or even the pilot if they aren’t too busy with pre-flight procedures (most pilots are incredibly friendly and want their passengers to have a positive experience). And if you are unable to speak with someone to resolve the situation, you may want to consider removing yourself and you pet from the flight rather than risk your pet’s health and well-being.
Finally, if you ever experience an issue that seriously concerns you on a flight (especially if it motivates you to leave the flight altogether for your safety or the safety of your pet), make sure to contact the airline’s customer service department immediately to express your concerns and seek reparations.