Following several high-profile pet deaths and mishaps, United Airlines has revealed a more stringent pet transportation policy.
The U.S. carrier said Tuesday that it will only accept dogs and cats ― and no other type of animal ― in its cargo holds beginning June 18. Dozens of snub-nosed and strong-jawed dog and cat breeds will also be banned from flying in the airline’s PetSafe program, which applies to animals traveling in the cargo compartment.
All of United Airlines' recent PR nightmares
All of United Airlines' recent PR nightmares
1. United Airlines Flight 3411
Footage of Dr. David Dao being dragged off United Airlines Flight 3411 from Chicago, Illinois, to Louisville, Kentucky, went viral on April 10.
The incident, in which Dao lost teeth and broke his nose, sparked international uproar and turned into a public relations nightmare for the carrier.
Dao will be suing the company, according to his attorney.
2. Second United Airlines passenger comes forward
Amid the social media firestorm set off by Dr. Dao's incident, a second passenger came forward to say that he, too, recently experienced mistreatment on a different United Airlines flight.
Geoff Fearns, 59, told KCAL he was removed from his first-class seat on a flight from Kauai, Hawaii to Los Angeles, California last month.
Although Fearns said he tried to resist the flight attendant's orders at first, he eventually caved once she threatened to have him put in handcuffs.
3. Scorpion falls from overhead bin and bites passenger
A Canadian couple's Mexican vacation came to an unfortunate end when they were flying home to Calgary from Houston on April 11.
Richard and Linda Bell were on a United Airlines flight when a scorpion fell from an overhead bin onto Richard's head.
He dropped it on his plate, then picked it up again, when the scorpion stung him.
The animal was stomped on and thrown in the toilet.
Emergency services were called in, but Bell was reportedly not in distress. He declined medical treatment.
4. Woman claims she was sexually harassed by drunk man on United Airlines flight
A New Jersey woman said that United Airlines flight attendants continued to serve alcohol to a visibly inebriated passenger after she complained that he sexually harassed her.
Jennifer Rafieyan was traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to Phoenix, Arizona, with her 12-year-old daughter when the drunken passenger was escorted onto the plane.
Over the course of the flight, Rafieyan said the man repeatedly groped her and rubbed her legs and knees, while occasionally kissing her hands and putting his head on her shoulder.
Rafieyan reported the passenger to a crew member after her daughter got up to use the bathroom, but it did little to help her situation.
"She said, 'I'm so sorry. We felt really bad putting him next to you, but there was nothing we could do. He was doing the same kind of stuff to the other flight attendant,'" Rafieyan recalled.
5. Couple kicked off United flight on way to their wedding
Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell had boarded their flight when they noticed a passenger napping across the row they were supposed to be sitting in.
Instead of waking up the snoozing man, the pair decided to sit a few rows in front of their assigned seats.
Hohl said that after he and Maxwell sat down, a flight attendant asked if they were in their assigned seats. When the couple said no and explained why they had moved, Hohl said the attendant declined their request for an upgrade and asked them to return to their original seats.
Hohl said that although he and Maxwell did as they were told, a U.S. Marshall later boarded the flight and asked them to get off the plane.
6. United Airlines CEO's heart transplant comes under scrutiny
Following United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz's apology over Flight 3411, people began questioning whether his wealth played a role in the heart transplant he received last year.
Munoz had a heart attack on October 15, 2015, one month after he took over as United's new CEO.
Less than three months later, he received a new organ.
Since the waiting list for a new heart was reportedly up to 4,200 people at the time, questions have risen about how he was able to get a new heart without waiting very long.
7. Dad accused of trafficking his own daughter on United plane
The wife of a Mexican man who was accused of trafficking his own 3-year-old daughter on a United Airlines flight spoke out about the incident on April 17.
Maura Furfey, a Spanish teacher and mother of three, says that her husband and daughter were returning from a trip to Mexico to visit her husband's mother and great-grandmother, "who they see but once a year."
Apparently another passenger, who Furfey says was "obviously inebriated," expressed concern to an airline employee that the fair-skinned child didn't look like her Mexican father, raising suspicion that he had kidnapped her.
The mother of three says she burst into tears when she learned the details of what her family had gone through.
8. United Airlines stock plummets $800 million amid controversy
United Continental lost about $800 million in total value the day after the video of Dr. Dao being dragged off Flight 3411 became a major news story.
Shares in the company declined about 3.8 percent in mid-morning trading, a steep drop for a major company like United.
9. Woman claims United Airlines employee forced her to back of plane in tears without explanation
A New York woman filed a $150,000 lawsuit against United Airlines, claiming she was forced from her business class seat to the back of the plane by an employee without any explanation during a flight last year.
Karen Shiboleth, a 24-year-old Columbia graduate, was traveling to London to attend a master's degree program at Kings College on September 10, 2016.
Shiboleth claims that ten minutes prior to take off, a United employee boarded the craft and demanded she vacate her seat in United BusinessFirst and move to the back of the plane.
The lawsuit alleges that nobody would explain to Shiboleth why she was being moved, and that when she expressed her confusion, the employee took her arm "without consent" and forced her to a middle seat in the back of the plane.
To make matters worse, the unidentified worker reportedly called her a "c--t" during the interaction, bringing Shiboleth to tears.
10. Professional golfer claims his clubs were snapped on United Airlines flight
An Australian professional golfer took to Twitter on April 24, claiming his golf clubs were destroyed during a recent United Airlines flight.
Veteran golf pro Matthew Goggin said he opened his checked bag after his trip, only to discover that his precious clubs were snapped in two.
"First time in 20+ years I've opened my bag to find this..." he wrote. "I was going to complain but I must admit I'm a little intimidated by United."
11. Giant rabbit mysteriously dies aboard United Airlines flight
Simon, a 35-inch behemoth, was traveling from London's Heathrow to Chicago's O'Hare to meet his new "celebrity owner" when he mysteriously died in the airline's care.
Annette Edwards, Simon's breeder, says that both she and Simon's buyer are extremely upset and confused by the incident.
"Simon had a vet's check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle," Edwards said. "Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. I've sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before."
Simon was the son of the world's current largest rabbit, Darius, who is a whopping 51 inches long.
The 10-month-old rabbit was reportedly on track to out grow his father and eventually steal his title.
Instead, the family was met with a Great Dane they had never seen before. Apparently, a United mix-up had sent Irgo all the way to Japan, which is where the Great Dane was meant to go.
13. Flight attendant forces passenger to place puppy in overhead bin. The puppy was later found dead.
United Airlines has apologized after a passenger's dog died Monday evening during a flight. The incident took place on United Airlines Flight 1284 from Houston, Texas to New York's LaGuardia Airport.
United Airlines' says PR team is hiring
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There are currently three job openings in Houston, New Jersey, and California for a brand manager in the United public relations department.
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The banned breeds — which include mastiffs, Pekingese, shih-tzus, several bulldog breeds, as well as Burmese and Persian cats — were singled out because of “higher adverse health risks,” United said, adding that it had worked closely with the animal welfare group American Humane to improve its pet travel program. Snub-nosed, or brachycephalic, dog and cat breeds are known to be more vulnerable to flying-related health problems.
“We are doing this to further minimize risk and ensure the comfort of pets we fly,” United spokesman Charles Hobart told People magazine of the pet policy overhaul. “Prior to today, we flew all sorts of animals. Geese, foxes, leopards, you name it, we pretty much flew it. That will change moving forward.”
Hobart added that the airline previously prohibited only six dog breeds from flying in cargo compartments. Concerns about pet health and comfort prompted the more extensive ban, he said.
“We understand that [the new policies] can present challenges to folks who have traditionally flown their pets where they need to be, but our overwhelming concern is ensuring the comfort of those animals and this is how we have to do it,” Hobart said.
Among domestic carriers, United had been one of the most lax when it came to the transportation of higher-risk breeds. Other domestic carriers, like Delta and American Airlines, already have blanket bans on brachycephalic dogs in their cargo compartments.
Under the new guidelines, United also will limit the travel of pets to and from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix and Tucson between May 1 and Sept. 30, due to concern about hot temperatures.
United’s policy overhaul follows the March death of a French bulldog on one of its flights. That dog had been traveling in an overhead luggage bin in the main cabin when it died. United temporarily suspended its PetSafe program for pets traveling in the cargo compartment after the animal’s death, and said it would conduct “a thorough and systematic review” of the program.
The airline has said also is reviewing its policy for cabin animal transport. For now, the carrier continues to allow “domesticated cats, dogs, rabbits and household birds (excluding cockatoos) to travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin on most flights within the U.S.” so long as the animal’s kennel can fit completely under the seat in front of the passenger.