United Airlines has taken “full responsibility” for the in-flight death of a dog, after a flight attendant allegedly forced the pet into an overhead locker.
The French bulldog died during a flight from Houston to New York on Monday.
Witnesses said the flight attendant asked one of the passengers to put their airline-approved pet carrier in the overhead bin and that the owner was “adamant” about keeping the pet underneath her seat.
The dog, named Kokito, was heard barking during the three and a half hour journey before going silent.
“This was a tragic accident that should never have happened,” the US airline said in a statement.
“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. Pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” the statement added.
Passenger Maggie Gremminger, who was sitting behind the owner of the dog, gave her account of the events on board the flight.
She told travel website, One Mile at a Time: “I witnessed the United flight attendant instuct a woman to put her dog carrier with live dog in a overheard bin.
”The passenger adamantly pushed back, sharing verbally that her dog was in the bag.
“The flight attendant continued to ask the passenger to do it, and she eventually complied.
“By the end of the flight, the dog was dead. The woman was crying in the airplane aisle on the floor.”
She then took to Twitter, expressing her sadness for what happened and that she wanted to help the woman and her daughter.
The family have reportedly been refunded the cost of their tickets, including the $125 (£90) pet cabin fee.
US media report that although overhead lockers are not air-tight, a lack of oxygen could have been the cause of the dog’s death.
The airline’s policy for onboard animals states that “a pet travelling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel.
“The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.”
United Airlines currently flies direct from Edinburgh and Glasgow to US cities, including Chicago, New York and Washington D.C.
In March 2017, a United Airlines pilot was sentenced to 10 months in prison after admitting being more than twice the legal alcohol limit as he prepared to fly from Glasgow Airport to Newark, New Jersey.
Paul Grebenc, 35, was due to fly on August 27 2016 when concerns were raised about his fitness to fly.