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United Airlines

A Puppy Died After A Flight Attendant Put it in the Overhead Bin

A Puppy Died After A Flight Attendant Put it in the Overhead Bin
Meg Butler

On Monday night, a 10-month-old French Bulldog puppy died on a United Airlines flight #1284 after a flight attendant forced the dog to spend a three-hour flight from Houston to New York in the overhead bin.

Maggie Gremminger, a passenger on the flight, released this account of the events:

I was in seat 24A, the woman (mother) was 23C, with her young teenage daughter in seat 23B. The mother had a young daughter and a newborn.

I was sitting in the row behind the woman with the dog, and the gentleman next to me witnessed it all as well. We both overheard/saw the interaction between the flight attendant and the passenger.

I witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a woman to put her dog carrier with live dog in an overhead bin. The passenger adamantly pushed back, sharing verbally that her dog was in the bag. The flight attendant continued to ask the passenger to do it, and she eventually complied. By the end of the flight, the dog was dead. The woman was crying in the airplane aisle on the floor. A fellow passenger offered to hold the newborn while the mother was crying on the floor aisle with the dog. it was this out of body experience of grief.

But holy **** I don’t know how the hell this happened. The flight attendant wouldn’t even NEED to hear there was a dog in the carrier. She was right there looking at the TSA approved bag. (The dog carrier is the black on the ground in the photo. It is clearly a carrier with mesh, which makes me question how the flight attendant could say she didn’t know there was a dog)

I feel angry and powerless and regretful. I know clearly this was not an intent of anyone and yet that flight attendant is responsible for this. How were we to know that maybe there wasn’t a new ventilation system in those bins? It’s not our job to know this information.

I understand emotional distress in a different way right now. I can’t get the image out of my head of the woman on the floor of the airplane aisle, crying and holding that sweet dog.

Immediately after the flight landed, myself and another witness stayed to speak with various United employees. The flight attendant denied knowing it was a dog, but the man seated next to me said he heard the flight attendant respond to the passenger “you need to put your dog up here” – therefore admitting that she knew an animal was in there. Additionally, I’ve been in touch with United via private message on Twitter.

They publicly replied asking me to message them – once private messaging them I shared my confirmation # and flight info. They replied:

“We appreciate you reaching out with more information. Please know that we are in contact with the passenger and thank you for bringing this to our attention.”

I also was offered $75 in credit (along with the gentleman witness) for staying and working with them to share our recollection of events. We both refused the credit.

United has released the following statement:

This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. 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.

This is the second time the airline has been in recent news because of the fate of an animal on one of their flights. Last year, a dog died while being shipped via their PetSafe cargo service.


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View Comments (16)


  1. cairns

    March 14, 2018 at 6:27 am

    Unbelievable and incredibly sad. How stupid and cruel do you have to be to qualify as a UAL FA?

  2. ksandness

    March 14, 2018 at 6:29 am

    How stupid and/or callous do you have to be not to know that 1) anything that barks is probably a dog, 2) dogs need air to survive, 3) there is no air circulation inside an overhead bin?

  3. UncleDude

    March 14, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Could it be the Passengers booked themselves a Bulkhead or Emergency exit seat and maybe missed the FA saying ” It has to be placed in the Overhead Bin for Take-off and Landing”

    IMHO all animals should be placed in the hold. The last thing I need is a defecating animal within inches of where I as an adjoining passenger may be eating a meal. As once happened to me on AA First Class, even worse the passenger seated next to me with the Dog was a Non-Rev. And no it was not a Service animal, just a Pet.

  4. golfiend

    March 14, 2018 at 9:30 am

    I find it intersesting that this person heard all of this yet when the woman was on the news she spoke no English so how exactly did this whole exchange take place? If I knew there was a dog in the overhead I would at least check on it, seems the writer of this article just wanted to get her name out there. She is as guilty as the passenger and the flight attendant.

  5. jamar

    March 14, 2018 at 9:30 am

    To the commenter above me, no. Animals NEVER go in the overhead bin, and show me on which aircraft type United flies domestic that 23C is a bulkhead or emergency exit?

  6. chavala

    March 14, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Not defending the FA here (and yes she is to blame and I wish her ill will), but she is not the one who put the dog in. Therefore the title of this article is incorrect. In this age of fake news, shame on you FT and whoever “Meg Butler” is. Get your facts straight.

  7. FrequentUnitedFlyer

    March 14, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    I don’t know why some people try to blame anyone other than the FA.
    Nowadays, who dares not to obey what FA says, specifically on UA flights.
    The FA requested to put the dog in the overhead bin, then later lied about not knowing a dog in there. Unless the truth is very different from what’s already posted everywhere, it’s very obvious.
    The FA on my UA 325 flight was very nice yesterday from IAD to LAX even though the entertainment system was not working (again) and the flight was bumpy. No one complained, because out FAs did the best they could to make our flight experience better. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing to most of my UA flights. I got bullied by a FA once as well. She treated me like a 3rd grade kid, and humiliated me and my seat mates. I couldn’t do anything cause I was in the exit row. She could always make up an excuse to boost me out of the exit row, and I just wanted to go home. Many frequent flyers have similar experience or stories about the “unkindness” of certain UA FA. There are great FAs in UA, but definitely not as much as we hope. With my 1K and million mile status, I still got bullied by a FA on a United flight, I am not surprised that the situation will only get worse in economy cabin.

  8. arcticflier

    March 14, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you for your informative post about the PAX being a non-English speaker.

    I do not understand why the dogs owner or this witness/ author never once thought to open the overhead bin.

    No, the responsibility of the dead puppy is shared by more tha just the airline.

  9. cairns

    March 14, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    “The last thing I need is a defecating animal within inches of where I as an adjoining passenger may be eating a meal. As once happened to me on AA First Class, even worse the passenger seated next to me with the Dog was a Non-Rev. And no it was not a Service animal, just a Pet.”

    I wouldn’t normally reply but this is one of the most reprehensible remarks I’ve ever heard. Flying today is the equivalent of taking a bus in the 50’s and 60’s. If you were this appalled and insist on being “first class” I would suggest you charter an aircraft and truly rise above the lower classes you obviously have no respect for.

    “Defecating” next to you while you eat in first class? Please. It never happened. And I suggest it may be you who is passing the rancid defecants.

    An innocent helpless animal died for crying out loud. Stay off public transportation if you can’t handle it.

  10. dp3181

    March 15, 2018 at 4:59 am

    There are so many things wrong about this on both sides. First, people claim they heard the entire exchange between the woman and the FA, well the woman can’t speak English, not a single word. Maybe everyone on the flight was fluent in Spanish, not sure. Second, I CAN”T IMAGINE anyone, let alone a FA forcing a PAX to put a LIVE animal in the Overhead. Something DOES NOT match. After viewing all of the photos that were posted on every social media outlet, I also noticed that the poor little guy was in full rigormortis. Now, I am not playing any blame game here but the accounts of the incident claimed that the dog was placed in the overhead. The flight from IAH to LGA is 3 hours 27 min Block time, so actual flight time is probably 3 hours. The witnesses stated that the poor little guy barked for 2 hours, 2 HOURS after going silent. First of all what kind of human would allow this, I would have fought like a nut job with everyone on that plane including the crew. So now there is 1 hour left in the flight, the dog is no longer barking so we can now assume that he has passed. That means in 1 hour the dog was in full rigor mortis. Most studies show that even a small dog, it would take at least 2 to 3 hours depending on the cause of death. Now I am not accusing anyone here because I have no idea really what happened but I can tell you that something is seriously wrong with this story on both sides. What kind of human could you be to force someone to put a live animal in an overhead!! The other crew members, the other passengers, not a single person said something? Yet when a woman is asked to check her stroller and gets into a debate with a FA who was very rude that entire clip ends up on prime time news with passengers ready to fist fight over a stroller, but not a single person stepped in to help.

  11. studentff

    March 15, 2018 at 6:05 am

    The real problem here is power-tripping FAs. Anyone who flies much knows how an FA can get a rule (real or imagined) stuck in their head and obsess over it, and to some extent that’s human nature. But then their training and experience kick in, especially in the face of any push-back, and they claim it is “federal law” or “FAA regulation” and threaten the passenger with federal charges for interfering with flight crew if the don’t subserviently comply. Or just kick them off the flight. Or get the captain who inevitably agrees with whatever the FA says and then does the same. And everyone knows what happened to Dr Dao last year (it’s irrelevant to the average passenger that it was a partner flight, etc. What matters is the logo on the tail.)

    This FA needs to be publicly named and shamed in addition to being fired and sued (personally, not covered by the union insurance). And it’s time to re-think the god-like status the airlines (and passengers to some extent) yield to FAs. It’s a tough job, but they are not sworn police officers or superheros, and passengers need some form of real, effective, and immediate recourse without fear of retaliation (legal or otherwise) for when FAs go over the top.

  12. jimr260

    March 15, 2018 at 6:57 am

    I have traveled on business almost weekly for the past 20 years. Living in Denver, UAL is the most convenient carrier. When I first started traveling, my colleagues warned me about the horrible attitude of all customer facing UAL employees. After continually being insulted for the first three years, I swore I would never fly UAL again – and have never done so since 2002. I am now a 3 million mile DELTA Diamond flyer and generally fly DELTA over 200 K miles per year. Yes, i have to make connections on nearly all my trips, but my experience with DELTA is absolutely stellar. You couldn’t find a more well trained, customer-is-always-right staff at ANY US company.
    This incident only reinforces the fact that United has a toxic, poisonous culture, that will NEVER be rectified

  13. bagwell

    March 15, 2018 at 8:18 am

    and how stupid are you as a pet owner to not check on your pet ONCE during a 4 hr flight?!?!?!? I’d say this is 50% on united and 50% on the owner.

  14. brazilexpert

    March 15, 2018 at 8:46 am

    my Gosh! this is so…unbelievable! i just would like to know what the airline will do with this flight attendant! she deserves to be fired, and a lawsuit!
    i hope the animal protection rights help this family!

  15. CEB

    March 15, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Such absurd reactions to a sensationalist ‘article’ that leaves out many of the relevant facts, i.e. barking (every flight I’ve ever been on any such noise would raise lots of complaints), owner doesn’t speak English (blatant exclusion of information critical to the situation). And then look at the rest of the supposed ‘articles’ by this author posted below the comments on this one. Obviously a United basher with little understanding of either the company or the industry.

    And to the comments about Delta, they are no better, no worse than UA or AA. On balance, these airlines handle hundreds of ‘pets’, thousands of flights, millions of passengers and even more bags every day. With thousands of employees, mistakes will happen and that is not desirable, but certainly understandable. To constantly and blindly rant about ‘management’ and ‘attitude’ with little to no balance or basis in fact is offensive and such and author should be relegated to the grocery stand rags where she belongs.

    And yes, I’m going to say it; pets do NOT belong on airplanes except in especially exceptional circumstances. The whole pets/emotional support/service animal issue on airplanes is completely out of hand and abusive to the vast majority of passengers. I for one laud the airlines, including Delta who started the whole movement, for their renewed stricture and enforcement against the all too common abusers of the emotional support/service animal policies of the FAA.

    Cold hearted? Definitely not, I have pets of my own and have seen and felt the anguish of my family when we have lost pets (both dogs and cats) to death. It is a part of life, but travel on an airplane is not a right. Rather it is a privilege for which we pay, and abusing fellow passengers by bringing along a pet is classless and disrespectful. Do you take your pets to dinner when your friends invite you to their home? Surely not, so what makes it acceptable to impose on total strangers with your pet in the air. Show some decency and consideration, leave your ‘pets’ at home or don’t fly.

    I can see the flaming coming already, so be it.

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