United Airlines has another black mark on its history after a flight attendant allegedly told a customer to put her dog in the overhead compartment on a flight. The dog, a French bulldog named Kokito, died due to the request.
The owner, Catalina Robledo, says she was told to put the dog in the overhead compartment after a flight attendant said her puppy, who was in a carrier, was blocking the aisle and posed a safety hazard.
Maggie Gremminger, who was seated behind Robledo told The New York Times that Robledo insisted on not stowing her dog.
“The pet owner was very adamant that she did not want to put the pet carrier up above,” Gremminger told the outlet. “She was saying verbally, ‘My dog is in here, no, this is my dog.’ The flight attendant, in response, really just continued to ask her to put it above because it was a hazard where it was, it was a safety emergency, someone could trip.”
Robledo recalls hearing her dog barking during the flight on Monday from Houston to New York City.
“The dog barked and barked, but I could not stand,” Robledo told Telemundo in Spanish, explaining she was holding her newborn baby.
Despite the yelps, flight attendants reportedly did not do anything.
It wasn’t until four hours later, when the flight landed, did Robledo realize her dog had died. As everyone was getting their bags from the overhead compartment, Robledo opened up the carrier and saw that Kokito wasn’t breathing.
“She realized the dog was dead right there and she just started crying,” Gremminger said, saying Robledo collapsed while holding her dog. “Then the daughter started crying, then a passenger, a stranger, took the infant and held the baby while they cried right there in aisle 23.”
For its part, the airline issued a statement. “This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” the statement reads. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them.”
According to a report from the Department of Transportation, United Airlines had 18 animal deaths in 2017. The other airlines in the report, combined, had six animal deaths.