United Airlines is changing its pet policy. Short version: Fewer pets allowed. 

It's a bit of a shame, but it was probably inevitable. There's really no other way United could respond to the terrible mishaps and horrible press it went through earlier this year, starting with the death of Kikito the French bulldog, and culminating with the revelation of the fact that almost half of all pets that die on planes, die on United.

Legislators proposed new laws after that news came out. CEO Oscar Munoz bemoaned the mistakes. While there were extenuating circumstances for some of the statistics, United seems to understand that when you're stopping to explain, you're already losing.

And United is sick of losing. So, it suspended its entire pet travel program, even while a few people (among them, Martine Powers of The Washington Post), noticed that part of why United had so many pet casualties was that it was the only airline that would allow take high-risk pets aboard--specifically, short-nosed, "brachycephalic" animals, like Kikito.

Traveling by airplane is simply more dangerous for these dogs, but their owners were grateful for United's policy. With few other choices now, however, United has to leave those customers behind. 

Yesterday, it laid out its new pet travel policy, which it developed in conjunction with America Humane, "the country's first national humane animal organization."

The big changes include:

  • Joining every other airline by banning brachycephalic animals. This means a total of 47 breeds and sub-breeds of cats and dogs will no longer be allowed.
  • No animals at all, outside of pet dogs and cats.
  • No service for animals going to India or Australia, and no service to or from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, and Tucson between May 1 and September 30 each year, due to high temperatures.
  • Better documentation of pets on the parts of owners/passengers, and reservations will now be accepted only between 5 and 30 days before departure. Also, no compliant pet crate? No passage.

The new policy goes into effect starting July 9 for pets that will be traveling on the same flight as their owners, and United will start taking reservations on June 18. If you want to ship a pet in the cargo hold without being aboard yourself, travel starts July 30, and reservations start July 16.

"As we continue our review process to ensure that we are always doing what's right, we are committed to making significant improvements in our program and adhering to the best practices of animal comfort, well-being and travel on behalf of our customers and their pets," said Jan Krems, United's vice president of cargo. 

Published on: May 2, 2018
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