This past week, United Airlines faced yet another viral controversy after the public learned of the death of a dog on one of their flights, caused by a flight attendant placing the dog in the plane’s overhead bin. The incident engendered so much ire that ABC News reports that prosecutors in Texas and New York are looking into whether or not criminal charges are merited.
Virtually everyone views the death of the dog, named Kokito, as heartbreaking, though assignments of blame vary considerably. Some people view United Airlines as primarily responsible for the incident, while other people believe that the blame rests with the passenger who brought Kokito on board.
According to United Airlines, their flight attendant placed the dog, which was inside its carrier, in the overhead bin because it was blocking the aisle. Obviously, the owner should have known better than to allow Kokito to be in the aisle. On any plane, the walkways always have to be clear, for obvious safety reasons. In the event of an emergency, if the aisle were blocked by the dog’s carrier, United Airlines very well could have ended up with a lawsuit on their hands, or worse.
With that said, Kokito’s owner is not the only one responsible for the untimely death of the dog. United Airlines plays a comparable role in this tragedy, as many have noted. The airline has the legal obligation to properly train their staffers. What kind of flight attendant would view placing an animal in an airtight overhead bin as a good idea? For as wrong as the passenger was, the negligence and poor judgment of United plays a role as well.
There were many options which did not involve placing Kokito in an enclosed space with no air. The flight attendant could have simply ordered the passenger to leave the plane. The airline could have told the passenger to hold the animal in their lap. Both of these solutions, while not ideal, would have prevented the death of the dog.
United Airlines issued the following statement regarding the incident:
“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.”
As a response to United, some have argued that what happened to Kokito is not an isolated incident.
Over the past year, United Airlines has received negative press for a variety of reasons, Kokito being just one involving animals. Days after the fiasco involving Kokito, United came under fire for accidentally shipping Irgo the German Shepherd to Japan when he was supposed to catch a connecting flight to Kansas.
The family who owns Irgo was understandably upset. Not only was the German Shepherd shipped to the wrong destination, but Irgo was also not given any food or water throughout the entire duration of the 16-hour flight. Unlike the situation with Kokito, there is no argument to be made in this case against United Airlines’ responsibility.
And of course, there was the viral story of their treatment of Dr. David Dao, a passenger traveling on an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville, who was injured while being forcibly removed from the flight after the airline was unable to get passengers to volunteer to get off.
United’s media image has been more or less on the decline since then, and this latest fiasco has definitely put them back on the public’s radar.