United is making a big change to its pet policy after a puppy tragically died in an overhead bin during a flight

George Rose/Getty ImagesA woman talks on her cell phone in front of a parked United Airlines aircraft.

  • On Tuesday, United Airlines announced that it would temporarily stop transporting pets in the cargo holds of its aircraft as it reviews its PetSafe program.
  • United expects to finish the review by May 1, though it did not indicate if it will reinstate PetSafe as soon as the review is complete.
  • The suspension will not affect pets that travel in an aircraft’s cabin.

Last week, United had three, separate, dog-related mishaps that resulted in one dead dog and two that were placed on incorrect flights. On Tuesday, the airline announced that it would temporarily stop transporting pets in the cargo holds of its aircraft.

“We are deeply committed to the safety and comfort of the animals and pets in our care. We are conducting a thorough and systematic review of our program for pets that travel in the cargo compartment to make improvements that will ensure the best possible experience for our customers and their pets,” the airline wrote in a press release.

The airline said that it has stopped accepting reservations for its PetSafe program, which allows pets to travel in the cargo hold, while it completes the review, though any PetSafe reservations confirmed as of Tuesday will be honored. United expects to finish the review by May 1, though it did not indicate if it will reinstate PetSafe as soon as the review is complete.

The suspension will not affect pets that travel in an aircraft’s cabin, which include service and emotional support animals.

The latter has become a point of controversy for United and other airlines since emotional support animals don’t require special training, just a note from a licensed medical professional stating that the animal is necessary to the passenger’s mental and emotional health. This year, United and Delta Air Lines have added requirements that passengers travelling with emotional support animals sign paperwork asserting that the animal can behave on a flight.

United has also announced that pets travelling in an aircraft’s cabin will be marked with brightly coloured bag tags to ensure they are not mistakenly placed in the overhead bin.

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