A U.S. family’s cross-country move became a lot more stressful after United Airlines mistakenly flew their dog to Japan.
Kara and Joseph Swindle told KCTV-5 that they and their two children had landed in Kansas City, Missouri, on Tuesday expecting to be reunited with their German shepherd, Irgo. The dog had traveled in a kennel in the cargo hold of a different United flight.
Instead, the family was met with a Great Dane they had never seen before. Apparently, a United mix-up had sent Irgo all the way to Japan, which is where the Great Dane was meant to go.
A United spokesman confirmed the incident in a statement to HuffPost.
“An error occurred during connections in Denver for two pets sent to the wrong destinations,” he said. “We have notified our customers that their pets have arrived safely and will arrange to return the pets to them as soon as possible. We apologize for this mistake and are following up with the vendor kennel where they were kept overnight to understand what happened.”
Kara Swindle, whose family is in the process of moving from Oregon to Wichita, Kansas, told KCTV-5 that she just wants her beloved pet to be safe.
“I don’t know what else to do at this point,” she said. “I can’t cry anymore. I’ve cried too much.”
This is far from the most alarming dog-related incident on a United flight this week. On Monday, a 10-month-old puppy died in the cabin of a plane after passengers say a flight attendant made the dog’s owner stow the puppy in the overhead bin.
United had the highest number of animal deaths and injuries of any U.S. airline in 2017, based on Department of Transportation data. Out of the 24 pet deaths that occurred aboard U.S. carriers last year, 18 were on United flights. The airline had 2.24 “incidents” — meaning animal deaths or injuries ― per 10,000 animals transported. American Airlines had the next highest incident rate, with 0.87 incidents per 10,000 animals transported.
The vast majority of animals flown in cargo holds get to their destinations safely. But animal welfare experts typically recommend against it, suggesting you either take your pet in the cabin with you, if permitted, or choose another method of transportation if you have to travel with an animal.
“Putting pets in cargo areas should be avoided whenever possible,” Inga Fricke, director of pet retention programs at The Humane Society of the United States, told HuffPost last year. “Once that animal is out of your control, there are so many risks it can be exposed to that it’s just not worth it.”