United Airlines flight diverted because it accidentally had a dog on-board

The incident was United’s third dog-related mishap in a week; fortunately this time, it led to a happier conclusion than the first

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 March, 2018, 11:22am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 March, 2018, 11:13pm

United Airlines had an in-flight incident involving a dog.

No, not that one.

Or that other one.

Another one.

A United flight from Newark, New Jersey, to St. Louis was diverted Thursday after the airline learned it had an unauthorised passenger on-board: a dog.

The pet was bound for Akron, Ohio, but was mistakenly loaded onto the St. Louis flight, company spokeswoman Natalie Noonan said.

And so the plane followed the dog’s itinerary. Flight 3996 banked toward northeast Ohio after the airline “chose the fastest option to reunite the dog with his family,” Noonan said.

Passengers were provided compensation for the delay, Noonan said, but she declined to describe the compensation or confirm how many passengers were on-board. CNN reported 33.

Ian Petchenic, a spokesman for the flight-data company Flightradar24, said that the flight averages about two hours. This was a four-hour journey, with roughly an hour and a half spent on the ground in Akron after diverting near Columbus, he said.

The incident was United’s third dog-related mishap last week; fortunately this time, it led to a happier conclusion than the first.

On Monday, a French bulldog puppy named Kokito suffocated to death in an overhead bin, after a flight attendant insisted the owner stow the dog there for a three-hour flight from Houston to New York.

“This little guy fought hard for his life, filling our flight with his cries until he finally ran out of breath,” passenger June Lara wrote on Facebook after the incident.

“United Airlines does not care about the safety of their furry travellers. This poor family paid US$125 for their pet to be murdered in front of them.”

United said it would take full responsibility for the “tragic accident that should never have occurred” and that pets should never be placed in the overhead bins. The Transportation Department was investigating the incident.

Then on Tuesday, another case of mistaken canine identity occurred on a United flight, sending a dog owner into a frenzy when she discovered a Great Dane in the place of her German Shepherd, Irgo, in a facility at the Kansas City airport.

Kara Swindle paid to ship Irgo as cargo on a flight from Oregon to Kansas, but instead the German Shepard was put on a flight to Japan.

The mix-up occurred during connecting flights in Denver. The airline vowed to return both dogs to their respective owners, and on Thursday, Irgo’s journey of thousands of kilometres entered in a happy, tail-wagging reunion.

Noonan declined to say if the company was creating or modifying regulations after the row of dog-related mishaps.

The company appeared especially challenged by pet incidents. Last year, the airline, one of the largest in the world, carried about a quarter of the total number of animals transported by air in the United States, but it was responsible for 18 of the 25, or more than 70 per cent, of flight-related pet deaths last year, according to Transportation Department data.