With summer quickly approaching, you may be making travel plans — but if you include your pets on your trips, a recent change from United Airlines that could make it harder to travel with your pets. United is banning dozens of dog breeds from flying in the cargo hold, and you could be affected if your dog falls into one of the now-banned categories. Effective June 18, the airline will only allow cats and dogs to fly, and will ban more than 30 dog breeds from the cargo hold, including bulldogs, pugs, Shih-Tzus, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Four cat breeds, including Himalayans and Persian cats, have also been banned from the cargo hold. The full list is here. According to United's website, the airline won't accept reservations for short-nosed or snub-nosed dogs and cats "out of concern for higher adverse health risks."
This news follows an incident in March, in which a flight attendant allegedly made a passenger put her French bulldog in the plane's overhead department, where it suffocated. United temporarily suspended cargo pet transport after the incident, per CNN, but it will resume on June 18.
Now, the airline is partnering with American Humane, a nonprofit organization focused on animal welfare, in the hopes of making pet travel safer. "We look forward to a long-term collaboration and appreciate their expertise in helping us further improve our service on an ongoing and continual basis," United's vice president of cargo Jan Krems said in a press release. "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."
United will also not accept crates taller than 30 inches and will stop selling crates at airports. Additionally, you won't be able to bring your pet to or from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, or Tucson during summer months "due to high temperature restrictions." Before your pet reservation is confirmed, you'll have to provide pictures and crate information. The airline says it collaborated with American Humane in an attempt to make pet travel safer. From the press release:
"Transporting pets introduces a variety of risks and when United approached us, we knew we had to take on the challenge of helping improve and ensure the health, safety and comfort of so many animals," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane's president and chief executive officer.
Some dog lovers aren't happy about the new changes, saying on Twitter that the company is unfairly punishing certain dog breeds. But a 2011 article in the New York Times shows that companies like American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have had bans on brachycephalic (aka "short-nosed") pets, which are more likely to encounter breathing difficulties, for years. United's dog breed change may feel unfair, but it's simply falling in line with its competitors. Ganzert says the nonprofit evaluated the airline's pet procedures before making recommendations.
"United serves thousands of customers and their pets each day, and we saw it as our duty to come in as an independent, third party to help evaluate and further improve their PetSafe program and the in-cabin experience to ensure it offers one of the best in the industry," she says in the release. The airline says it'll work with American Humane throughout the year to improve its policy.
This is likely an inconvenience for any United travelers who regularly bring their dogs with them — as it's now much more difficult — but the airline is responding to public scrutiny and making changes in the wake of tragedy. The new rules may seem overzealous, but it's always better safe than sorry.