Flight tragedy: ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know’
A HEARTBROKEN family whose dog died on-board a plane has spoken about their ordeal.
Sophia Ceballos, speaking on behalf of her mother, Catalina Robledo, claims a flight attendant lied about what really happened on-board the tragic United Airlines flight from Houston to New York.
The family had been instructed by the cabin crew member to place the bag containing their young french bulldog in the overhead locker, as it was blocking the aisle.
When they heard their dog barking during the four-hour trip, the family say they attempted to alert the crew to the severity of the situation and get help for their pet. Sadly, they claim they were ignored.
"While we were flying, the dog started barking and barking and there was no flight attendants coming," a teary Sophia told ABC 13. "We couldn't stand up because there was a lot of turbulence so we weren't allowed to."
Upon discovering their beloved dog dead after the plane landed, the mother desperately tried to resuscitate it.
"She's like, 'He died, he died. Kokito, Kokito.' And he didn't wake up. She hit his chest so he could breathe, but he couldn't breathe," Sophia said.
She says at this point, the flight attendant tried to claim she hadn't realised the French Bulldog was in the bag.
"She said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was a dog. I thought it was a normal bag.' But we told her it was a dog, she's lying."
Catalina told local media that listening to her dog yelp while stuffed into the overhead bin was awful.
"I paid to bring him on the plane, not so they could put him in a bag to suffocate him," she told Telemundo 47 in Spanish.
"The dog barked and barked but I couldn't stand up because I (was) carrying my baby."
She said the crew did nothing.
The story shocked the world yesterday when passenger Maggie Gremminger posted her account of the tragedy on Facebook.
Ms Gremminger said a flight attendant had forced the reluctant woman to put her dog and the dog carrier in the overhead compartment, even though the woman tried to resist.
"Tonight I was on a plane where I witnessed a @united flight attendant instruct a passenger to place her dog carrier (with dog) in the overhead compartment. The passenger adamantly refused but the flight attendant went on with instruction," Ms Gremminger said.
"At the end of the flight - the dog was found (dead) in the carrier. I am heartbroken right now. I didn't question the flight attendant, but I could have.
"I assumed there must be ventilation as surely the flight attendant wouldn't have instructed this otherwise. I heard the dog barking a little and we didn't realise it was barking a cry for help.
" ... I was even trying to look up info online before we took off because it felt like it wasn't right."
She said the airline's response to the situation was underwhelming.
"The flight attendant was very frazzled afterwards. I couldn't make sense of it. She said she didn't know there was a dog, but it was insanely clear, and I heard the passenger tell her that her dog was in the carrier.
" ... I'm in shock right now. Tweeting those few tweets was hard enough. To make things worse, @united offered me a $US75 ($95) credit. I'm so disgusted and sad for that family. "
Another passenger, June Lara, wrote on Facebook about the incident.
"Today, I boarded my first United Airlines flight," he said. "On my way, I saw a Frenchie that looked identical to my own precious Winston. He was with his family - a young girl, no older than eight, her toddler sibling and their mother.
"He was meant to grow, learn, cry, play with those young children and be their furry friend. He was meant to live a long life filling that family's days with that special joy that only a dog can bring.
"I sat behind the family of three and thought myself lucky - who doesn't when they get to sit near a puppy? However, the flight attendants ... felt that the innocent animal was better off crammed inside the overhead container without air and water. They insisted that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow. They assured the safety of the family's pet so wearily, the mother agreed."
Fury erupted on social media over the incident, with many calling for United to explain what had gone wrong.
United Airlines took responsibility for the incident in a statement to news.com.au.
"This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin," a spokesman for United said.
"We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again."
He said the passenger was told to put the carrier in the overhead bin because the bag was partly obstructing the aisle. It's not clear why the carrier was not placed under a seat, the spokesman said.
The pet had been brought on-board in a TSA-approved pet carrier, and according to the airline's rules the family should have been able to keep it at their feet.
United Airlines has a poor record for pet deaths on-board its flights.
In August, the airline was blamed for the death of Lulu, a five-year-old King Charles spaniel, who died in the cargo hold during a flight.
And in April, a high-profile giant rabbit named Simon died in the cargo section on a United flight from London to Chicago.
The airline faced legal action from Simon's owner, former Playboy model Annette Edwards.
So is it safe to fly with pets? According to the US Department of Transportation, just over half a million pets flew in cargo in 2016 and of those, 26 died and 22 were injured. That's a rate of less than 1 death per 10,000 pets.