United Airlines is back in the news for another PR nightmare involving a passenger. United has apologized to a woman whose dog suffocated to death after a stewardess stuffed the animal in an overhead bin.
Catalina Robledo, a mother-of-2, sat helplessly as her 10-month-old French bulldog, Kokito, barked for help inside the small compartment.
Robledo, her 2 children and her pooch were on board a flight from Houston to New York on Monday when the tragic incident occurred. The puppy was in an approved pet carrier that is designed to fit under her seat. But Robledo had another bag under the seat, so she put the carrier in the aisle.
A stewardess complained that the carrier was blocking the aisle, so the stewardess put the carrier into the overhead bin, according to the NY Daily News.
Robledo and people sitting nearby tried to explain there was a dog inside the carrier, passengers said, according to the News.
"The dog barked and barked but I could not stand,” she told Spanish language TV station Telemundo47.
Robledo, who speaks limited English, said she was not aware that her dog was dying.
She said her newborn baby was on her lap and the plane was going through turbulence. The flight crew, she continued, did nothing as Kokito barked inside the cramped space.
When the plane landed at LaGaurdia 4 hours later, Robledo retrieved the carrier from the overhead bin. That's when she saw the dog was not breathing and unresponsive.
“I grabbed him on the floor and said: ‘Kokito breathe, breathe,'" she told Telemundo in Spanish. “But he was already dead.”
The stewardess claimed she didn’t know there was a dog inside the carrier, Robledo said, and left the plane crying.
"He was a really special dog. It's just sad the way he has to, just leave," said Robledo's tearful 11-year-old daughter Sophia Ceballos, who was traveling with her mother at the time.
United Airlines has been accused of previous abusive incidents involving passengers.
United took responsibility for the “tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” a spokesman said in a statement.
The airline agreed to reimburse Robledo for her airline ticket and to replace the dog.