The tragic story of a dog killed inside the passenger cabin of a United Airlines flight demands accountability. Who should take the fall for this horrible error in judgment?
I’d like to think that other than the dog’s owner, the person who feels worst about what happened is the flight attendant.
But it’s not about who feels worse. It is about getting to the root of why the dog died.
Two passenger eyewitnesses confirm that the FA instructed the passenger to place her dog in the overhead bin (i.e., she knew it was a dog). Meanwhile, ABC News is now reporting the FA denies knowing it was dog and one other passenger has backed her up.
We have also learned that the dog owner, Catalina Robledo, does not speak English and may not have understood clearly the FA instructions or been able to properly articulate it was a dog.
United Backs its FA
United has just released a statement with new information–
We have spoken to the family, our crew and a number of passengers who were seated nearby. We have learned that the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier. However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin. As we stated, we take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident. We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support.
To prevent this from happening again, by April we will issue bright colored bag tags to customers traveling with in-cabin pets. This visual tag will further help our flight attendants identify pets in-cabin.
Note that this directly contradicts the testimony of at least two other passengers…
I don’t think she deliberately intended to kill the dog. Like me, she probably had no idea that a dog would suffocate inside an overhead bin. But she broke protocol.
Therefore, I believe she must be held accountable for her actions. FAs constantly remind us, on U.S. carriers, that they are “primarily here for our safety”. Clearly, that was not the case here.
We have yet to hear from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing all United FAs, but I hope it will not try to cover for this FA.
It may be that she is a victim of an airline culture that poorly trains employees. It may be that she really did not know it was a dog. And it may be that sacrificing her is simply giving in to the culture’s bloodlust.
But for the good of the company, she needs to go. Saving her job is not worth more than round after round of headlines about poor customer service at United. Firing her will send a clear message that United does not tolerate even honest mistakes that lead to death. There is no argument that she made a critical error in judgement.
If she did not understand what the passenger was saying, she should have sought clarification.
Meting out punishment does not resurrect the dog. But punishing the FA for failing to follow protocol is appropriate. I’m not calling for prosecution here…I dismiss any notion that a dog life is tantamount to human life. Even so, such callousness for life must be clearly and unequivocally condemned. The only way to realistically do that is to make this FA the sacrificial lamb of the far more systemic problem. Her termination will send a clear message to FAs that they must know and abide by their rules.