If there is one thing that United Airlines learned from the Dao incident, it is not to blame the customer.
If you haven’t heard yet, a dog tragically died on a United flight on Monday evening. Here’s a summary of what happened:
- Incident occurred on UA1284 from Houston (IAH) to La Guardia (LGA)
- Woman traveling with her teenage daughter, infant, and dog
- Pet carrier allegedly did not fit fully under the seat in front of her (perhaps because she had a diaper bag or other items as well)
- Before takeoff, FA demanded that the woman place dog (inside carrier) in overhead bin
- Woman refused, pointing out it was a dog
- FA again demanded the dog be placed in overhead bin
- Woman complied.
- Dog barked during takeoff, but fell silent during flight
- With infant in arms, dog was not checked on during flight
- Upon arrival in New York, dog was found dead
- Woman broke down and wailed in aisle
- FA claimed she did not know it was a dog
- Other passengers chided her for lying, stating she had said, “You need to put your dog up here”.
- FA admitted she knew it was a dog
This is an incredibly tragic story. Incredibly tragic. Read this passenger’s account and you cannot help but to tear up.
In the era of throwing passengers off for not following FA instructions, I place no blame on the mother of two for not standing up for herself.
United Takes Responsibility
United Airlines has issued 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.
I’ll address consequences later today, but for now I just want to point out that United’s response is quite unlike the self-inflicted wounds of the past.
In the pre-Dao area, the passenger would have been blamed for complying with the FA, for not checking on the dog during the flight, and/or for having too many carry-on items.
That was not the case here. While talk is cheap without meaningful action, United’s statement is on-point and appropriate. At the very least, at least United has learned how to better word public statements.
But that doesn’t absolve United of what happened in any way. More on that later on.
image: SuperJet International / WikiMedia Commons