An Airline Can’t Make You Kill Your Dog

 

Yesterday, the story of a French bulldog dying aboard a United Airlines flight flooded social media. An idiot flight attendant “forced” the family to put the dog in the overhead bin, and the entire flight listened to the dog suffocating in the bin until, upon landing, discovered it had died over the course of the flight.

After the incident, United said they would take “full responsibility” for the death of the puppy. Make no mistake, the flight attendant (and the others on board as well) should all be fired; their lapse in judgment makes you wonder just how competent they are in other areas of their job. But is United really fully responsible for this death? A fellow passenger wrote:

“They INSISTED that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow,” another Flight 1284 passenger, June Lara, wrote in a Facebook post early Tuesday. “They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed.”

“This little guy fought hard for his life, filling our flight with his cries until he finally ran out of breath,” Lara wrote in his post. “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.”

I’m never one to blame the victim when tragedy strikes, but it’s ridiculous to assert that the family watched “their pet murdered in front of them.” This woman put her dog into the overhead bin and listened to him suffocate; as did everyone in the immediate vicinity. There were any number of steps this family could have and should have taken: ask to speak to the head flight attendant, ask to speak to the pilot, call United Airlines from their seat, Google the regulations for flying with pets in the main cabin, or simply, refuse to comply and deplane.

Flying with kids is stressful, flying is stressful, that we all know. But ultimately, nobody can force you to kill your own dog. United deserves the latest PR disaster at their feet, but our society should also acknowledge the importance of not blindly listening to authority. The story is reminiscent of the Milgram Experiment at Yale, one of the most famous psychology studies in history.

One of the most famous studies of obedience in psychology was carried out by Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University. He conducted an experiment focusing on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience.

The procedure was that the participant was paired with another person and they drew lots to find out who would be the ‘learner’ and who would be the ‘teacher.’ The draw was fixed so that the participant was always the teacher, and the learner was one of Milgram’s confederates (pretending to be a real participant).

The learner (a confederate called Mr. Wallace) was taken into a room and had electrodes attached to his arms, and the teacher and researcher went into a room next door that contained an electric shock generator and a row of switches marked from 15 volts (Slight Shock) to 375 volts (Danger: Severe Shock) to 450 volts (XXX).

Milgram (1963) was interested in researching how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person.

Stanley Milgram was interested in how easily ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities, for example, Germans in WWII.

Stories like these should spark conversations not just about how terrible airlines are, but also about personal responsibility and conscience. Maybe that’s asking too much.

There are 64 comments.

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  1. Member

    Bethany, I completely agree. I just don’t understand why she complied. I don’t understand why her daughter agreed to this. I don’t understand why anyone on the plane sat back and let this happen. It boggles the mind.

    • #1
    • March 14, 2018 at 1:39 pm
    • 6 likes
  2. Member

    So from a perspective of education and raising kids, how do we teach our children to honor their parents, yet challenge authority that goes against conscience without giving our kids free license?

    Because I’d say this is a byproduct of the education system.

    • #2
    • March 14, 2018 at 1:48 pm
    • 2 likes
  3. Coolidge

    1967mustangman (View Comment):
    Bethany, I completely agree. I just don’t understand why she complied. I don’t understand why her daughter agreed to this. I don’t understand why anyone on the plane sat back and let this happen. It boggles the mind.

    It might have something to do with the announcement they make at the beginning of each flight that failure to comply with the instructions of the flight crew is a violation of federal law. Now in this situation there might be a case that this didn’t apply, but given how United has treated passengers in the recent past who didn’t comply you can see why some people might be hesitant.

    • #3
    • March 14, 2018 at 1:48 pm
    • 21 likes
  4. Member

    Bethany Mandel: Stories like these should spark conversations not just about how terrible airlines are, but also about personal responsibility and conscience. Maybe that’s asking too much.

    Apparently, it is asking too much. The social media hell paradise we currently inhabit is all about finding fault with others and never looking in the mirror. More often than not, we have met the enemy and he is us. But no one likes that answer.

    • #4
    • March 14, 2018 at 1:49 pm
    • 3 likes
  5. Member

    Nick H (View Comment):

    1967mustangman (View Comment):
    Bethany, I completely agree. I just don’t understand why she complied. I don’t understand why her daughter agreed to this. I don’t understand why anyone on the plane sat back and let this happen. It boggles the mind.

    It might have something to do with the announcement they make at the beginning of each flight that failure to comply with the instructions of the flight crew is a violation of federal law. Now in this situation there might be a case that this didn’t apply, but given how United has treated passengers in the recent past who didn’t comply you can see why some people might be hesitant.

    Yeah, well, sometimes life requires taking risks. Too afraid to stand up for a value? Then suffer the consequences attending your decision.

    • #5
    • March 14, 2018 at 1:52 pm
    • 8 likes
  6. Podcaster

    Let’s start with the Federal government. The FAA has imbued the flight crews with almost dictatorial powers. Disobeying a flight attendant’s repeated instructions can result in a $25,000 fine – even when the safety of the crew and fellow passengers are not in question.

    Is there any wonder why service sucks across the industry? You have your choice of airlines and each and every one of them will treat you like baggage. (After you’ve been treated like a sex doll by that other wonderful creation of the Feds known as TSA.)

    Had the woman stood fast against the flight attendant she would have been kicked off the flight. Had they pulled back and begun to taxi they would have returned to the gate, drawing the ire of the rest of the passengers.

    United Airlines is the most horrible of a horrible industry.

    • #6
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:00 pm
    • 22 likes
  7. Coolidge

    I personally think that someone somewhere should ban the ability of commercial flights to allow domestic pets to be transported.

    This whole incident is so terrifying. The family paid good money to have the dog with them. The alternative is to have the pet placed in the cargo hold. I once witnessed from my safe warm passenger seat aboard a plane at O’Hare, how a baggage vehicle pulled up to our airliner. Except this vehicle was not carrying baggage but dozens and dozens of pet carriers piled on top of each other. We were delayed in takeoff due to some snafu on the airfield. The “luggage handlers” took their sweet time in getting those pet carriers aboard the cargo hold. An hour? An hour and a half? All the while Chicago winds blasted that part of the world with seriously killer -5 degree weather. Some of the pets were clearly visible, tiny dogs with not much fur. What was their fate?

    Of course the other problem is that passengers are not treated much better. We breathe crappy recycled air, due to the fact that this saves the big airlines’ some $1.50 a passenger. Our leg room is non-existent and the death rate due to thrombosis is probably sky high. Author Richard Carlsen, author “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” died in his early 40’s due to such a thrombosis.

    • #7
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:05 pm
    • 3 likes
  8. Member

    Dogs shouldn’t be allowed on planes.

    • #8
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:09 pm
    • 11 likes
  9. Podcaster

    Guruforhire: Dogs shouldn’t be allowed on planes.

    I’d trade you all the flying 3-year-olds for a dog any day of the week.

    • #9
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:15 pm
    • 11 likes
  10. Podcaster

    How about this question: Why the hell is everyone bringing animals in the cabin of the plane in the first place? Dogs/cats/ferrets/iguana can fly perfectly well in the specific part of the plane designed for them.

    But instead the “emotional support turkeys” crowd our planes and annoy sane passengers.

    Could you animal kooks PLEASE leave Mr. Boots and Fluffers at home? Or put him in cargo hold?

    Thank you.

    • #10
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:17 pm
    • 12 likes
  11. Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Guruforhire: Dogs shouldn’t be allowed on planes.

    I’d trade you all the flying 3-year-olds for a dog any day of the week.

    My 3 yo was perfect. However, once I had more than 1, I chose driving. 12 hours straight with 3 kids is still less stressful than a 2 hour flight with them.

    • #11
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:24 pm
    • 3 likes
  12. Thatcher

    I think we need to keep a less hysterical perspective here.

    It’s sad. A dog died and the blame can be shared. How about the self-indulgent set of pet owners and emotionally needy service dog phonies who pack the already sardine space of the fuselage with their “babies”.

    Sure, the gate agents should have checked the carrier for size compatibility. But have you ever witnessed the loud, obnoxious caterwauling of pet owners when told their carriers don’t comply? Are we supposed to exempt bulky pet carriers from regulations on takeoffs and landings? Infrequent travelers already are creating a Hogarthian scene on many flights, as some families walk on with three kids, two pizzas, two coffees, three sodas, their pet and a few tablets blaring without headphones.

    The only real option was to delay the flight for a half hour while the pooch was checked in. Maybe only 30-40 people would miss their connections and have their business trips and vacations disrupted on Petland Discount Airlines.

    Sorry, but trying to make this another Milgram experiment or Kitty Genovese story seems overwrought.

    Again, some perspective: 3,000 fellow Americans were killed in the womb on that same day, often suffering much more ghastly pain and torture.

    • #12
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm
    • 7 likes
  13. Member

    EJHill (View Comment):
    3 yo was perfect. However, once I had more than 1, I chose driving. 12 hours straight with 3 kids

    I won’t fly with my chil’ren because I cant do that to either my children or other people.

    • #13
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:40 pm
    • 1 like
  14. Member

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    But have you ever witnessed the loud, obnoxious caterwauling of pet owners when told their carriers don’t comply?

    When was the last time you saw any agent tell someone with an obviously oversized carryon that it will have to be checked and the $25 dollar fee assessed?

    • #14
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:43 pm
    • 3 likes
  15. Member

    Michael Graham (View Comment):
    How about this question: Why the hell is everyone bringing animals in the cabin of the plane in the first place? Dogs/cats/ferrets/iguana can fly perfectly well in the specific part of the plane designed for them.

    But instead the “emotional support turkeys” crowd our planes and annoy sane passengers.

    Could you animal kooks PLEASE leave Mr. Boots and Fluffers at home? Or put him in cargo hold?

    Thank you.

    • #15
    • March 14, 2018 at 2:45 pm
    • 2 likes
  16. Member

    How about just getting up once in awhile to crack the overhead door open and give him some air? Someone should be prosecuted. The dogs owner, the attendant, or both.

    • #16
    • March 14, 2018 at 3:00 pm
    • 12 likes
  17. Member

    Bob Wainwright (View Comment):
    How about just getting up once in awhile to crack the overhead door open and give him some air? Someone should be prosecuted. The dogs owner, the attendant, or both.

    This was my first thought.

    • #17
    • March 14, 2018 at 4:36 pm
    • 3 likes
  18. Member

    The airline is now saying the attendant didn’t know a dog was in the bag that they ordered into the overhead.

    • #18
    • March 14, 2018 at 4:39 pm
    • 1 like
  19. Member

    United says it takes full responsibility. That reminds me of a bit that someone (I think it was David Frye) did when Nixon said he took full responsibility for Watergate. Imitating Nixon, Mr. Frye said, “I take full responsibility…, but not the blame. Let me explain the difference. People who are to blame lose their jobs. People who are responsible do not.” Personally, if a stewardess told me to put my dog in an overhead bin, I would have stuffed the stewardess in the overhead bin.

    • #19
    • March 14, 2018 at 4:52 pm
    • 4 likes
  20. Member

    Ah, the dog days of flying….

    Bethany Mandel: Google the regulations for flying with pets in the main cabin

    Wouldn’t anyone Who “loves” Their pet do this before buying Their ticket? Before arriving at the airport? Before boarding?

    • #20
    • March 14, 2018 at 5:57 pm
    • 5 likes
  21. Member

    Bob Wainwright (View Comment):
    The airline is now saying the attendant didn’t know a dog was in the bag that they ordered into the overhead.

    So the passenger was trying to sneak the dog on board?

    • #21
    • March 14, 2018 at 6:17 pm
    • 1 like
  22. Editor
    Bethany Mandel Post author

    Someone on Twitter said the FA didn’t know there was a dog inside. Which would make this even worse on the owners.

    • #22
    • March 14, 2018 at 6:21 pm
    • 1 like
  23. Thatcher

    Bethany Mandel (View Comment):
    Someone on Twitter said the FA didn’t know there was a dog inside. Which would make this even worse on the owners.

    Doesn’t this whole incident right now scream incomplete knowledge? Will a flight attendant be direct and even severe about the requirement to stow away items as the plane is readying to taxi? Sure. Sometimes they are very summary and abrupt at those moments. Downright rude sometimes.

    Would a flight attendant then disallow a passenger from opening the bin after the plane had reached cruising altitude to access that luggage or simply allow some air into the compartment and police that behavior for 2 hours.

    I’ve never seen anything approaching that level of FA fascism in over 3 million miles on United. Not remotely. Sad story, yes.

    Complete story, no.

    • #23
    • March 14, 2018 at 7:21 pm
    • 5 likes
  24. Member

    I’m really sickened by this story about the poor little dog and all of the people on the plane who sat there stupidly and let him cry and then die. But then I would have gotten off the plane before I put a little dog up in that storage compartment.

    In an opposite type of story:

    Simba the French bulldog is probably alive today because of the attentiveness of an Air Canada pilot.

    Simba was flying via Air Canada Flight 85 from Tel Aviv to Toronto when the pilot noticed a problem with the cargo area’s heating system, according to CNN Canadian affiliate City News. (Simba’s owner, German Kontorovich, was in the cabin with his fellow humans.)

    “As soon as the crew became aware of the temperature issue, the captain grew rightfully concerned for the dog’s comfort and well-being,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told CNN via email. “With the altitude it can become very uncomfortable, and possibly the situation could have been life-threatening if the flight had continued.”

    The aircraft diverted to Frankfurt, Germany, where Simba, age 7, was boarded onto another flight, causing a delay of about 75 minutes for the original flight’s passengers.

    “Frankfurt was a good choice due to proximity, the fact there are multiple Air Canada flights (and flights by our partner Lufthansa) to Canada each day, and also because the airport can turn aircraft quickly, meaning there would be little time on the ground,” said Fitzpatrick.

    “While we recognize this was an inconvenience for our customers, the overall reaction was positive, particularly once people understood the dog was in potential danger but safe as a result of the diversion,” he said.

    Kontorovich was grateful for the pilot’s decision. “It’s my dog, it’s like (my) child. It’s everything,” he told City News after landing at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

    “It was definitely the right thing to do,” a fellow passenger said.

    The diversion could cost the airline thousands of dollars in fuel costs, aviation expert Phyl Durby told City News, but he called it the right decision. “The captain is responsible for all lives on board.”

    • #24
    • March 14, 2018 at 8:37 pm
    • 1 like
  25. Member

    EJHill (View Comment):
    Is there any wonder why service sucks across the industry? You have your choice of airlines and each and every one of them will treat you like baggage. (After you’ve been treated like a sex doll by that other wonderful creation of the Feds known as TSA.)

    My experience has been quite the opposite. I find flight attendants to be unfailingly helpful, pleasant, and polite. On the other hand, passengers can be beastly. I recall one passenger called a flight attendant “Hitler” because she asked him to adjust his luggage in the overhead bin. Another complained loudly and endlessly about the width of her seat and how it simply did not meet her standards for first class accommodation, as if the flight attendant could modify the seat’s dimensions. And then there’s the parade of drunks and the fools who refuse to sit down when it’s time to push back.

    Even TSA staff are mostly efficient and amiable. They generally observe the social niceties, wishing me a good trip. There’s the odd incompetent here and there, mostly back East. Come to think of it, the airports in the Northeast seem to be the more poorly run, though the absolute worst is IAD. Not surprising, I suppose, given the location.

    Maybe poor treatment is reserved for the cranky passengers.

    • #25
    • March 15, 2018 at 12:08 am
    • 5 likes
  26. Thatcher

    Bethany Mandel: Stories like these should spark conversations not just about how terrible airlines are, but also about personal responsibility and conscience. Maybe that’s asking too much.

    I’ll admit it, I’m afraid to fly. Having said that, I wouldn’t fly today even if airlines were 100% safe. Just from reading the news, the whole experience from ticketing to TSA to boarding to the flight itself is horrific.

    • #26
    • March 15, 2018 at 6:25 am
    • 2 likes
  27. Member

    Isn’t the big problem with airlines the dependability of their schedules, not the crews or whatever?

    • #27
    • March 15, 2018 at 6:27 am
    • 1 like
  28. Thatcher

    RufusRJones (View Comment):
    Isn’t the big problem with airlines the dependability of their schedules, not the crews or whatever?

    Honestly Rufus the problem is the expectation that you are entitled to fly from New York to San Diego for $129 while making a 29-minute connection at an airport sprawled over a mile.

    I am not anti-American. Actually a great admirer of my nation and fellow citizens in so many respects.

    Travel savvy is not one of those respects though. We can be petulant, self-dramatizing whiners who regularly abuse airline workers multitasking through insanely long shifts for very modest wages.

    Can anyone explain why I am now expected to tip at every single countertop in America for the quickest purchases, but flight attendants are expected to be waitresses/bartenders/nannies/home health aides/maids/janitors/first responders/bellhops/concierges without ever receiving a tip?

    • #28
    • March 15, 2018 at 7:19 am
    • 4 likes
  29. Member

    Quake Voter (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):
    Isn’t the big problem with airlines the dependability of their schedules, not the crews or whatever?

    Honestly Rufus the problem is the expectation that you are entitled to fly from New York to San Diego for $129 while making a 29-minute connection at an airport sprawled over a mile.

    I am not anti-American. Actually a great admirer of my nation and fellow citizens in so many respects.

    Travel savvy is not one of those respects though. We can be petulant, self-dramatizing whiners who regularly abuse airline workers multitasking through insanely long shifts for very modest wages.

    Can anyone explain why I am now expected to tip at every single countertop in America for the quickest purchases, but flight attendants are expected to be waitresses/bartenders/nannies/home health aides/maids/janitors/first responders/bellhops/concierges without ever receiving a tip?

    I remember when Minnesota’s Rep. Jason Lewis was on the radio, he said airfare is underpriced because we keep too many inefficient companies alive with bailouts. It needs to be regulated to have better airlines that charge more. I realize that doesn’t sound very libertarian, but that’s the way I remember it.

    • #29
    • March 15, 2018 at 7:27 am
    • Like
  30. Coolidge

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    Infrequent travelers already are creating a Hogarthian scene on many flights, as some families walk on with three kids, two pizzas, two coffees, three sodas, their pet and a few tablets blaring without headphones.

    Well played.

    • #30
    • March 15, 2018 at 8:18 am
    • 2 likes
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