2017 seemed to be a never-ending PR disaster for United Airlines. Last year alone, three times as many pets died on United Airlines flights as on all other major carriers combined. These deaths included Lulu, a Cavalier King Charles whose story went viral online, and a 35-inch bunny named Simon, who was expected to grow into the world's largest rabbit. In response to these controversies (as well as the infamous passenger removal video which generated massive amounts of negative press) the airline is setting new rules which won't allow certain breeds of dog and cat to ride in the planes PetSafe cargo hold.
The newly banned breeds include "mastiffs, Pekingese, shih-tzus, several bulldog breeds, as well as Burmese and Persian cats." According to United, these breeds have "higher adverse health risks." The airline has been collaborating with American Humane, an animal welfare-group, to create this list and re-work their animal transportation program, PetSafe, in many ways.
The updates come not a moment too soon:
The changes are set to go into effect on June 18, and if your pet doesn't happen to be a dog or a cat, you're out of luck according to United spokesman Charles Hobart:
We are doing this to further minimize risk and ensure the comfort of pets we fly. Prior to today, we flew all sorts of animals. Geese, foxes, leopards, you name it, we pretty much flew it. That will change moving forward.
United is among the last major airlines to place extensive restrictions on traveling with certain brachycephalic breeds of dog and cat. They will also begin restricting pet travel to and from especially hot cities like "Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix and Tucson."
Though they may cause some inconveniences, Hobart believes the changes will ultimately create better, safer experiences for the animals involved:
We understand that [the new policies] can present challenges to folks who have traditionally flown their pets where they need to be, but our overwhelming concern is ensuring the comfort of those animals and this is how we have to do it.
Last year, United also sent two dogs to the wrong destinations and caused the death of young French Bulldog who was stowed away in an overhead storage compartment.
Will these changes help turn United's bad public image around? Only time will tell. For now, just be careful what breed of dog you're bringing onto a United Flight—if they're not the right kind, your pup may be forcibly removed.