United Sent Puppy on a 24 Hour Journey After Flying the Wrong Dog to Minneapolis

United Airlines hasn’t just come under criticism for how it treats its human passengers, it’s received recent attention for how it (mis)treats animals as well. The biggest story was that the airline reportedly locked the World’s Biggest Rabbit in a freezer for hours and them cremated it without permission.

And United just screwed up another pet transport. Fortunately the puppy is still alive. The reputation of United’s ‘PetSafe’ program may be another matter.

Kris Patrow-Ogle bought an 8 week old Airdale and had it shipped from Raleigh via Chicago to Minneapolis. She waited at baggage claim for two hours before United told her that her puppy wasn’t there.

The airline apparently had two dogs on the Raleigh – Chicago segment, and “sent the wrong dog to Minnesota.”

“The crates were marked, our dogs were really different, we had an Airbill and still they sent the dogs to the wrong cities,” Patrow-Ogle said.

Her dog went to Philadelphia. She asked United to have him flown directly to Minneapolis. Spirit, Delta, and American service that route non-stop. They told her it wouldn’t be possible. Instead the dog was flown via Houston. This involved an overnight.

I’m left to wonder, though, why the dog wasn’t flown Delta in the first place, with its two peak daily mainline non-stops. Delta indicates they accept pets as cargo on aircraft other than Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s. Delta even offers GPS tracking of pets for departures out of Atlanta; Cincinnati; Detroit; Los Angeles; New York LaGuardia; Kansas City; Memphis; Minneapolis; Seattle; San Francisco; Salt Lake City; St. Louis; and Tampa. Sadly this isn’t available from Raleigh.

My own dog was born in Oklahoma and flew United to DC back in 2002. He survived the journey — and remarkably the last 15 years in my care.

Stories like these though make me sympathetic to owners who claim their pets are emotional support animals so they can have their pet in cabin instead of shipping them as cargo.

United has apologized and refunded the pet shipping fee.

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. Oscar Munoz: I wonder if the worst has passed.
    UA in general: Here, hold my beer ……

  2. Once again, United screws up royally! Nothing After all the “Munoz PR” nothing changes!

  3. As you said…we wonder why people want pets to travel with them instead of cargo. And seriously, why in the world not book the dog on a better flight (I agree the passenger should have picked a better flight, but still, should have been handled better.)

  4. So yeah, United screwed up, and failed in an opportunity to better fix their mistake.
    But was the dog’s health actually jeopardized through 24h and 4 flights of travel? People put their dogs in kennels for far longer.

    I get why people lie and abuse laws aimed to help people in need to get their animals called ESAs. But there needs to be a better solution that doesn’t result in victimizing other passengers for your “convenience”, and more importantly, doesn’t result in victimizing people who actually need ESAs that you’ve now given a bad name to.

  5. Might be a good idea for ALL pets flown in the baggage hold of an airplane to have GPS units attached to their collars and/or kennels.

  6. I had to smile at Mangar’s comment regarding his basset hound. Being a serial owner of bassets, with 2 currently, I can assure you there is no needier breed of dog than bassets. You are their ESH (Emotional Support Human), 24/7 on the ground (usually your bed or a sofa) or in the air.
    We recently had our 2 girls transported on a 2 hour flight with
    Virgin Australia to our new home. Can’t say if they enjoyed the new experience, but they arrived safe and sound as planned.
    Kudos to VA !

  7. They simply re-accommodated the furry passenger on another flight what more do you want?
    They needed to get some employees out on the dogs original flight
    So he got an extended journey with no extra charge complimentary
    Who said United wasn’t generous?

  8. Personally, I don’t really care. I rarely bring my pet on a trip, and certainly not by air. But that’s me. On the other hand, if I were running a multi-billion dollar airline, I would have thought about this before I allowed pets to be checked in. I believe there is an extra fee for transporting a pet. This fee should be used to offset extra costs associated with transporting the pets, and is not an opportunity for the airline to make $10 or $100. It is only an opportunity for the airline to ruin their brand and to ruin someone’s vacation because something went wrong.
    In this case, the answer was to put the pet on a non-stop flight on a Real Airline to Minneapolis… regardless of ‘cost.’ And, assign the “cargo” to an employee that is responsible for it during transport, and upon arrival. And award the travelers in the group each a free ticket as a goodwill gesture since this simple mistake, can, more than anything else the airline does, this can RUIN A VACATION.
    That’s the answer, and how you do it is up to you.
    If you cannot figure out the solution, and instead hide behind your legal mumbo jumbo about limitations of liability and call the police on irate customers, you look like the fool.

  9. PEOPLE leave your stinking pets at home, have a neighbor or friend or kennel watch them. Look I / we like dogs, I have had many in my life but they are pets that it. they are people, sure you do not abuse them and you treat them properly. but once again they are pets not people, leave them at home or travel by car.

  10. She bought a dog from another city. I wonder how many no-kill animal rescue shelters there are within 10 miles of her home.

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