A dog owner is grieving in Australia after her dog died on a Qantas flight from Sydney to Brisbane. But why was a high-risk dog entrusted to Qantas in the first place?
I’m not here to blame the passenger or attempt to fully understand the grief she must be going through today. I’m also not going to defend Qantas over the way it handled the incident.
But here’s what continues to puzzle me: why would anyone trust a precious, high-risk asset to an airline cargo hold? I know a quick plane ride is so much easier than a 10-hour car ride or 14-hour train ride from Sydney to Brisbane. But honestly, if it was my “son” and I could not take him into the cabin, that is exactly what I would do…it is a risk I simply would not take.
The Death Of Duke On Qantas
For Kay Newman, December 19th will be day of infamy for the rest of her life. She was flying from SYD-BNE with her 6-year-old boxer, Duke. It was 102ºF outside and she was already worried about transporting Duke. On Facebook, she shared:
“I was worried about the heat but was told by Qantas freight staff that Duke would only be kept on the tarmac for a few minutes and that he would be kept under cover until they were ready to put him on the plane. All animals are meant to be boarded last (last on first off).”
Qantas even allowed Newman to wait in an air-conditioned room until the final stages of boarding, when Duke was placed in a crate and taken out to the tarmac for loading. Newman soaked Duke in a towel and ice water before leaving him.
She walked up to the boarding gate and saw that Duke’s crate was already on the tarmac. She watched…and waited. But after 15 minutes Duke still had not been loaded. Qantas staff assured her that Duke was just fine and would be onboard shortly.
Boxers are prone to Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome. It is for that reason such dogs are banned on U.S. airlines like American, Delta, and United. Qantas does not ban these types of dogs, but does require a waiver for flights over five hours. Sydney to Brisbane is just 90 minutes.
Upon reaching Brisbane, Newman received bad news:
“I was asked to come through to the back of the office, that’s not normal and I knew in my heart something was wrong, I started screaming, ‘What’s wrong, what’s happened?’ Then I heard the words I never wanted to hear, ‘We have some bad news, I’m sorry but your dog didn’t survive the flight and has passed away.'”
It was clear that Duke died from the heat. Qantas claimed Duke was just fine when he was loaded in Sydney. Newman blames his death on the delay in loading him in SYD.
Just Don’t Do It
There’s a tendency to overlook the fact that hundreds of animals are transported safely every day. If you’re playing the odds, the odds are certainly in your favor.
But the odds are quite different than saying don’t fly because your plane may crash. If you have a high-risk breed and want to transport it in conditions of extreme heat…I can only urge you to think twice. It’s not worthwhile.
And even if (though) the odds are still immensely in your favor, it doesn’t seem worthwhile to me.
I’m not sure it was the tarmac delay that doomed Duke. The death may have happened in either case. It’s a sad story to be sure and was indeed preventable. But perhaps preventable by not transporting the dog in the first place.