Update: New Report Reveals Animal Incidents on Airlines in 2017

In 2017, United Airlines reported 31 animal incidents on its flights. Now, in light of further reports of in-flight deaths and misrouted animals, the company is suspending its PetSafe program.
Kerry Lengyel
Published: March 20, 2018
UPDATE (March 20) — In a statement released today, United Airlines has stopped taking reservations for PetSafe, the airline’s program for pets that travel in cargo compartments. United Airlines said it will honor any existing reservations confirmed as of March 20, 2018, although all current customers will be alerted of the announcement and assistance will be provided to customers that wish to cancel their reservations. 

The company said they will be conducting a thorough review of the current program to make improvements that will ensure the best possible experience for customers and their pets. They anticipate the review will be completed by May 1. The suspension of the program will not affect pets that travel in the aircraft's cabin.

The announcement comes following several canine-related misfortunes that took place just last week: a French bulldog puppy died in an overhead bin mid-flight and a dog was misrouted to Japan rather than Kansas.

United Airlines is not the only aviation company making headlines. On March 17, two, eight-week-old puppies were put on a Delta flight from Virginia, which was supposed to stop over in Minneapolis, Minnesota before landing in Boise, Idaho that same day. One puppy arrived to its intended destination a day later than scheduled, while the other remained unaccounted for. It wasn’t until later in the day on March 18 that the second puppy arrived at the Boise airport after spending two days in its kennel.

Air Travel Consumer Reports, released monthly by the U.S. Department of Transportation, reveal six key performance metrics of major U.S. airlines and regional carriers.

The reports give travelers insight into statistics regarding flight delays, mishandled baggage, consumer complaints, oversales, and reports of loss, injury or death of animals during air transportation.

The most recent Air Travel Consumer Report, released this month, presents these statistics for the period from January to December 2017. Only four U.S. airlines that transport animals — of the 17 included in the report — reported animal loss, injury or death last year.
Carrier Death Injury Loss Total Incidents Total Transported Incidents per 10,000 Animals Transported
Alaska Airlines 2 0 1 3 114,974 0.26
Delta Air Lines 2 1 0 3 57,479 0.52
American Airlines 2 1 0 3 34,628 0.87
United Airlines 18 13 0 31 138,178 2.24

The report also contains the individual redacted reports for each animal-related incident.

One report from Alaska Airlines describes a situation in which a Shiba Inu attempted to exit its kennel by chewing through it, causing the dog to become trapped in the narrow hole and asphyxiating itself. And a report from Delta Air Lines describes an unresponsive kitten upon arrival at its destination; a necropsy revealed the kitten died from enteritis caused by intestinal feline coronavirus with secondary spiral bacteria.

United Airlines was the reluctant star in many news articles last year due to its seemingly constant issues with animal transportation. In fact, one-third of all animal deaths on U.S. flights over the past five years have occurred on United Airlines planes. With 18 animal deaths and 13 animal injuries reported in 2017, United remains in the top spot with the most animal deaths of any U.S. airline.

Airlines that had no reported loss, injury or death of transported animals last year include the following:
Carrier Death Injury Loss Total Incidents Total Transported
SkyWest Airlines 0 0 0 0 46,392
ExpressJet Airlines 0 0 0 0 23,256
Horizon Air 0 0 0 0 17,289
CommutAir 0 0 0 0 16,893
Republic Airlines 0 0 0 0 14,872
Mesa Airlines 0 0 0 0 13,669
GoJet Airlines 0 0 0 0 8,014
Hawaiian Airlines 0 0 0 0 7,510
Envoy Air 0 0 0 0 6,470
Endeavor Air 0 0 0 0 4,951
Compass Airline 0 0 0 0 2,054
Sun Country Airlines 0 0 0 0 304
Shuttle America 0 0 0 0 61

Allegiant, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit and Virgin American, which were included in other aspects of the report, do not transport animals.

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