MIAMI — United Airlines announced that it has changed its pet policy starting next month.
The proposal is specifically aimed to changing the rules regarding pet carriers, following the death of Kokito, a French bulldog traveling from Houston to New York in flight 1284.
Throughout the entire week, the Chicago-based carrier has faced serious criticism after a flight attendant commanded Catalina Robledo, owner of the 10-month-old dog, to place it in the overhead bin.
The Chicago-based carrier shared in a statement:
“We have learned that the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier. However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin.”
“To prevent this from happening again, by April we will issue bright colored bag tags to customers traveling with in-cabin pets.”
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However, Kokito’s family contradicted the employee’s claims, alleging that she knowingly placed the dog in the bin.
Eleven-year-old Sophia Ceballos—the daughter of the dog’s owner— told ABC News on behalf of her mother who doesn’t speak fluently English:
“The flight attendant came, and she was like, ‘You have to put him up there because it’s going to block the path’. And we were like, ‘It’s a dog! It’s a dog!’ And she said, ‘It doesn’t matter, you still have to put it up there.’”
“In the end, she says she didn’t know it was a dog, but she actually touched the bag and felt him there. She’s basically lying to us now.”
“He was a member of our family. He was like my brother to me.”
In addition, fellow passengers pointed “there was some back-and-forth before the flight attendant convinced her to move the pet to the bin above,” and that the dog barked during the flight.
After landing at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), the family opened the overhead bin and broke into tears after discovering its beloved pet was dead.
United spokesperson, Maggie Schmerin, told PEOPLE, “As we stated, we take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident. We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support.”
Furthermore, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., demanded an explanation for the number of animals who have died in United Airlines in a letter he sent to the carrier’s President, Scott Kirby.
I will be filing a bill tomorrow that will prohibit airlines from putting animals in overhead bins. Violators will face significant fines. Pets are family.
— John Kennedy (@SenJohnKennedy) March 14, 2018
According to the Department of Transportation, 18 animals, mostly dogs, died on United Airlines aircraft during 2017, more than on any other carrier in the same year.
United Airlines features a pet-shipping program, PetSafe, which is not eligible to travel in the aircraft cabin, carries more animals than any other airline, traveling to almost 300 destinations.