United bars pets in plane cargo holds until review completed

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Although there were no animal-related disturbances on the vast majority of United flights, Mr. Hobart said, the airline wants to ensure that all pets travel safely and without incident.

It will stop accepting new reservations for its PetSafe program, though it will honor any reservations made through March 20, the airline said. The news comes shortly after a United flight attendant reportedly told a passenger to place their dog in the overhead bin, resulting in the animal's death.

United Continental Holdings Inc is halting reservations for its animal transport service after drawing worldwide scorn in recent weeks for the death of a dog and other miscues in handling pets.

Since the death, the airline has mistakenly sent a dog bound for Kansas City to Japan, and diverted a flight to Akron/Canton after another dog was boarded on the wrong aircraft.

United said it expects to complete the review by May 1. Additionally, it's partnering with independent experts in travel safety for pets.

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United's decision follows incidents last week in which dogs were mistakenly sent to incorrect destinations. The suspension does not affect pets that travel in United's passenger cabins, which require medical authorization. That was double the number of deaths in 2016 for United, and three times as many deaths as American, Delta and Alaska airlines recorded collectively past year. 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.

United's policy calls for small pets in containers to be stored beneath a seat near the passenger when flying in the cabin.

United promotes its PetsSafe program - one reason why the airline carries more animals in cargo than any other US carrier, about 138,000 a year ago.

United announced last week that to avoid a repeat of the dog dying in an overhead bin, it will put brightly colored tags on carriers containing pets in plane cabins. In 2017, 18 animals died in United's care, three-fourths of all such deaths on USA airlines.