United Halts Transport of Pets in Airplane Cargo Holds

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A week after a string of incidents involving pets aboard its planes, United Airlines announced Tuesday that it will stop taking new reservations for pets required to fly in aircraft cargo compartments. United said it compensated the passengers on that flight for the diversion, although it's unclear how they were compensated.

The bulldog was traveling in the cabin, not with the PetSafe program the airline is suspending, but United said it is also reviewing its service for in-cabin pets.

A U.S. senator said United's handling of pets was "simply inexcusable", saying 18 of 24 animals that died on a major airline past year were in the airline's care.

His statement added that the carrier would not accept any new bookings for PetSafe, the carrier's program for pets that travel in the cargo section, as the review proceeds.

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United's PetSafe program is an option for passengers with pets that are not eligible for travel in-cabin; animals travel in pressurized, climate-controlled compartments similar to passenger cabins.

On Thursday, a St. Louis-bound flight had to take a sudden detour when the airline discovered it had loaded a dog in cargo that was meant to go to Akron, Ohio. A similar incident ended in the deaths of seven puppies in 2010. Delta and American Airlines had just four combined.

Last week was an extraordinary bad week for pets flying on United. The company previously already announced that starting in April, it will issue brightly colored bag tags that will help better identify animals that are traveling in-cabin. And not all airlines will transport dogs as cargo: Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways, for example, offer only in-cabin flights, for small dogs and cats. Both animals were flying in cargo holds. In 2017, airlines reported 24 deaths, 15 injuries and one loss in almost 507,000 animals transported, according to Department of Transportation data.

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