United Airlines has apologised to a passenger and taken full responsibility after the death of a 10 month old French Bulldog puppy in an overhead bin. The puppy was on board flight #UA1284 between Houston and LaGuardia.

The puppy, Kokito, was in an approved TSA carrier that was small enough to go under the airline seat. Accounts from other passengers say a flight attendant demanded the puppy carrier with Kokito in it be placed in the overhead locker instead. The passenger, Catalina Robledo, who was travelling with her 2 children, protested but the flight attendant told her Kokito, would be safe and they would not be allowed to travel if the carrier wasn’t put in the overhead locker.

Passenger Maggie Gremminger was sitting in the row behind Ms Robledo. She posted on Facebook:

“Tonight I was on a plane where I witnessed a @united flight attendant instruct a passenger to place her dog carrier (with dog) in the overhead compartment. The passenger adamantly refused but the flight attendant went on with instruction.

“At the end of the flight — the dog was found (dead) in the carrier. I am heartbroken right now. I didn’t question the flight attendant, but I could have. I assumed there must be ventilation as surely the flight attendant wouldn’t have instructed this otherwise. I heard the dog barking a little and we didn’t realise it was barking a cry for help.

“I am heartbroken.”

Another passenger, June Lara, also posted on Facebook:

“Today, I boarded my first United Airlines flight.

“On my way, I saw a Frenchie that looked identical to my own precious Winston. He was with his family – a young girl, no older than 8, her toddler sibling and their mother. He was meant to grow, learn, cry, play with those young children and be their furry friend. He was meant to live a long life filling that family’s days with that special joy that only a dog can bring.

“I sat behind the family of three and thought myself lucky – who doesn’t when they get to sit near a puppy? However, the flight attendants of flight UA1284 felt that the innocent animal was better off crammed inside the overhead container without air and water. They INSISTED that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow. They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed.

“There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name. I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy. I cried with them three minutes later as she sobbed over his lifeless body. My heart broke with theirs as I realized he was gone.

“The Humane Society of the U.S. says air travel can be risky for pets and especially dangerous for brachycephalic breeds — such as pugs or bulldogs, whose short nasal passages make them vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. This little guy fought hard for his life, filling our flight with his cries until he finally ran out of breath. United Airlines does not care about the safety of their furry travelers. This poor family paid $125 for their pet to be murdered in front of them. There is no excuse for the pain this family is suffering.

“Today, I boarded my last United Airlines flight.

“R.I.P Papacito”

After tweeting the airline Ms Gremminger was offered a $US75 credit, which she refused.

In a statement United have said:

“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin.

“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.”

United spokesperson Charles Hobart has also told media the flight attendant told Ms Robledo to put the carrier in the overhead locker because it was partially obstructing the aisle. It was unknown why it wasn’t placed under a seat. He further added that the incident was under investigation and they were talking to the flight attendant.

United have also refunded the tickets of Ms Robledo and her children and the $US125 fee to bring the puppy on board. They have also offered to pay for a necropsy.

Last year United transported 138 178 animals – 27% of those carried on American carriers, and more than any other airline in the country. In a report by The Department of Transportation, last year saw 24 recorded cases of animals dying while being transported by American carriers. 18 of those were on United.

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