When a dog died last March during a Houston-to-New York flight on United Airlines after being stowed in an overhead compartment, a tragic mistake the company acknowledged and apologized for, United temporarily suspended its program for allowing dogs (and cats) to fly on its planes while reviewing its safety policies.
This summer, after partnering with the non-profit American Humane to improve its safety procedures, it started accepting canines and felines once more — but with new provisions. One of them is not to accept 21 different dog breeds, or breed mixes, because of physical or behavioral attributes that create greater health or safety risk. Most of the breeds are brachycephalic. Their short noses and attendant breathing difficulties (see the article beginning on page 7) make it harder for them to withstand the rigors of air travel. (The dog who died in flight was a French bulldog, one of the brachycephalic breeds.) Mastiffs and some other breeds are banned, too. United is not the first airline to ban certain breeds. And a number of airlines allow brachycephalic breeds in the cabin but not as checked baggage to be carried in the belly of the plane.
Another United restriction now in place for flying dogs: no dog will be booked for air travel that has more than two connections. That is, the maximum is three planes per trip. And dogs will not be allowed to travel to or from the following airports between May 1 and September 30 due to temperatures that can become extraordinarily high: Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, and Tucson.
We are all for the tighter restrictions. Grounded and safe is much better than in flight and at risk.