United: Don’t Blame the Flight Attendant For Killing That Dog, Have a Bright Bag Tag Instead

Yesterday we learned that United required a passenger to put her dog in the overhead bin on a flight from Houston to New York LaGuardia, and the dog died.

United immediately “assume[d] full responsibility for this tragedy.”

Now however, and although a flight attendant did insist the woman put her dog in the overhead bin for the flight, United wants us to know that it’s not really the flight attendant’s fault. Here’s the airline’s new statement.

We have spoken to the family, our crew and a number of passengers who were seated nearby. We have learned that the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier. However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin. As we stated, we take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident. We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support.

To prevent this from happening again, by April we will issue bright colored bag tags to customers traveling with in-cabin pets. This visual tag will further help our flight attendants identify pets in-cabin.

United takes full responsibility, but the crew member who created the situation shouldn’t be blamed. And it will never happen again because of bright colored bag tags. Which is sort of like the beginning to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where Douglas Adams explains that most solutions to unhappiness involve moving around small green pieces of paper.

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

There’s no suggestion of course that these small bright colored pieces of paper will stop United from shipping dogs to the wrong city or even to the wrong country.

At least focusing on the lack of bright bag tags rather than a flight attendant’s instructions gone wrong will help avoid union problems.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The article said “However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her” but it is the FA’s responsibility to KNOW what a passenger is saying. If the FA is having a problem with that a “please repeat that, and louder” would be appropriate, and if the passenger is speaking a language other than English, or has a heavy accent, the FA should get the help of another FA to figure out what the intent of the passengers words are. Many times that can be accomplished with just gestures and/or hand motions. Bottom line is the FA and passenger were having a moment where words were exchanged. The FA knew there were words coming out of the passengers mouth, she just didn’t care enough to make sure she understood the words the passenger was saying. and in closing, that FA couldn’t recognise that the passenger had an animal carrier? … Screening and all? Hasn’t the FA seen hundreds of animal carriers that passengers have brought on board in the past?.. What was this, the FA’s first day on the job? … idiot

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