By now you’ve probably heard the story of the dog who was left to die in an overhead bin on a United flight. In case you haven’t, the story really is heartbreaking. The early reports are that a flight attendant ordered a passenger to put their pet carrier in the overhead bin at the start of a long flight. When the plane landed, it was discovered tat the dog had died.
One Mile at a Time has a long witness statement about the incident. Not long after the incident, United issued a statement addressing it:
This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. 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.
One More Detail
Assuming the flight info being reported is correct, this was a 737 flying from Houston to New York (Laguardia). If that is in fact the case, this was a United Airlines plane and crew as opposed to a regional carrier. That shouldn’t necessarily make it better or worse. But, when the dragging incident happened on a United regional carrier last year it was at least worth noting that this was a regional carrier. The employees on those regional jets are not technically United employees. They work for the regional carrier. While some rules are standardized, others are not. For example, the type of bags permitted in an overhead bin on regional jets varies greatly between regional carriers.
If this was, in fact a mainline aircraft and crew, the employee in question should have no excuse for not understanding the pet carrier policy.
Is This About Blame? If So, Who’s To Blame?
There are enough witness statements pointing to the flight attendants behavior here that make the story seem true as reported. It’s easy to point our finger at the flight attendant and blame them. And, anyone that would demand a customer put their pet in an overhead bin should face consequences. Severe consequences.
Those that have been hanging around my blog for a while might recall that we lost our dog very suddenly not too long ago. The sudden nature of the loss of this pet on the United flight makes me think of our situation. Maybe that colors my thoughts on this tragedy. I don’t think so, but it’s fair to raise the point.
If we leave it there, though, I think we miss the larger issue.
How do you put a set of human beings together in this situation and get this outcome?
I don’t blame the mom here. I certainly don’t blame her fellow passengers. Part of me doesn’t want to blame the flight attendant, though that’s a bridge a bit too far for me.
This incident further emphasizes how broken the culture is on airplanes. The Dao dragging incident is the flagship here, but it’s still a symptom and not the disease.
We have a culture on airplanes where there are severe consequences when you question flight crew. It would be hard to convince me that didn’t come into play here. I’m sure some or all of the passengers within earshot of this exchange thought about whether it was worth getting throw off the flight or spending time in jail to stick up for a fellow passenger.
Couple that with airline employees who aren’t held accountable and the resulting culture is a toxic one. Employee behavior largely goes unchecked because nobody wants to spend the night in jail. Are you willing to stand up to a flight attendant or pilot and risk getting thrown off a plane? I’m not. I’ve absolutely backed down on issues when I knew I was on the right side of a policy. Why? Because I’ve been trained that the flight crew is in charge. Barring something drastic, you’re better off shutting your mouth and getting to your destination.
The Final Two Pennies
A dog died this week when it didn’t have to. That family will deal with that pain. Nothing United does can bring the dog back. That’s the easy part to define. The harder part is to fix this so it never happens again. To begin that process, the rules of engagement on airplanes need to involve less “shock and awe” and focus more on communication. Passengers shouldn’t feel like their giving up their freedom of speech in exchange for a timely arrival at their destination.
I know our family will have this family and their dog in our thoughts this week.
The post The Heartbreaking Story Of A Dog Left To Die In An Airplane Overhead Bin was published first on Pizza in Motion