United Airlines: You’ve Missed the Point. Again.

It’s not me, it’s you: A note on my break up with United Airlines as it releases a no-fly list for specific breeds.

By Jennifer Grant

Photo: Javier Brosch

In what can only be described as classic victim blaming, United Airlines has released a list of breeds that are now banned from flying. The air carrier had been under heavy fire following the death of several pets traveling with them.  The tipping point seems to have come this past March when a French bulldog puppy died while in an overhead compartment. This prompted the airline to temporarily suspend the transporting of all animals.

Photo: Monika Wisniewska

Pet bookings, under the misnomer PetSafe Program, will resume in the summer of 2018, but with a caveat.  Instead of coming up with adequate safety protocols and comfortable travel conditions for pets, this Chicago-based airline has compiled a list of breeds that are not permitted to travel.

Cat Looking out Window in AirplanePhoto: Ko Koulin

The list covers 21 dog and 4 cat breeds that tend to “travel poorly” due to their response to stress and heat. These include short- or snub-nosed breeds, as well as those with strong jaws. Examples include: Boston terriers, mastiffs, pit bulls, boxers, bull dogs, and pugs. Also banned are mixed breeds that include any of the banned animals. You can get the full list on their website.

Photo: Africa Studio

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation has found that brachycephalic pets (those with shorter snouts, smaller-than-normal nostrils, softer-than-normal palates, or narrowed trachea) are at risk of death during extreme temperature changes. This is because these breeds may have difficulty breathing normally, thus are at further risk when overheated or stressed.

Luggage Cart being loaded to plane bearing live animalsPhoto: Jaromir Chalabala

The new policy ups the aggravation for passengers with pets by instating black out periods to and from desert airports, including: Palm Springs, California, Phoenix, and Arizona. The dates for which United will refuse to allow pet reservations for these locales include May 1 to Sept 30. It also disallows pet bookings for long haul flights to and from India and Australia.

Photo: Monika Wisniewska

Passengers with pets that are not featured on the no-fly list can start booking June 18th for travel on or after July 9th. Pets traveling alone can be booked starting July 16 for flights leaving after July 30. Passengers may still bring approved dogs and cats with them into the cabin, provided the pet carrier can be stowed under the seat.

 Dog wearing sunglasses waiting for his flightPhoto: Javier Brosch

Pets are big business for airlines, which makes this new United policy a true head scratcher. An alternative policy would have been to accommodate the needs of human passengers and the safety of pet passengers.

So, what should you do now if you have to fly with your pet? Research and call ahead. There is no other way around it; each airline has its own pet travel policies and safety record. The safest airlines for your dog or cat, for short haul travel are: Alaska Airlines if you are flying in the west and midwest; ExpressJet for the south; and CommutAir for northern flights. American Airlines is the safest long-haul carrier.

Here’s the full ranking of airlines that allow animals, ranked from safest to most dangerous:

Credit: Kushal Chakrabarti from Obviously Wrong

It’s disappointing that United Airlines has taken such a head-in-the-sand approach to pet safety. It begs the question: are any pets truly safe when United, itself, admits that it can’t provide for the well-being of at least 25 different breeds of animals?