United Airlines announced on Tuesday that it's temporarily suspending PetSafe, its program for transporting pets in cargo. This comes after several pet-related incidents, including one in which a dog died midflight after a flight attendant insisted it be kept in an overhead bin. The suspension is part of a broader “thorough and systematic review” of pet travel policies that United is undertaking with outside experts in pet safety and travel.
United won't accept any new reservations for pets to travel in cargo until the review has concluded, but it will honor any existing reservations. In a statement, United explained that it would "assist any customer that wishes to cancel their reservation" but didn't clarify if that meant refunds would be issued. The review is expected to conclude by May 1, but we don't know what policies will be implemented in light of its findings.
For now, pet travel in the main cabin won't be affected, but that service is also under review. We do know that starting in April brightly colored bag tags will be implemented to highlight animals traveling in-cabin to increase awareness and safety.
Of the major carriers, United transports the most animals and has the highest rate of animal deaths. Even accounting for its larger volume of animals, the airline still has the highest death rate of any US airline in the last three years: 1.19 deaths per 10,000 animals transported, reports the Verge. That's higher than the next two airlines combined.
In addition to the dog that died midflight, two dogs have been sent to the wrong destination in the past week. One sent to St. Louis instead of Akron and one sent to Japan instead of Wichita.
h/t The Verge