In a distressing mix-up, United Airlines accidentally sent a dog to Japan instead of its planned destination, Kansas City. Kara and Joseph Swindle, who own the German Shepherd named Irgo, told KCTV5 that they were moving from Oregon to Kansas City, Missouri, on a United Airlines flight. Their pet dog was on a different flight with the same company and was expected to touch down shortly after the couple.
However, when the couple landed in Kansas City and waited for the airline company to unload the cargo of the other flight, they were surprised to see that Irgo was not Irgo at all. Instead, they were handed an unfamiliar Great Dane.
After bringing this issue up to the company, the couple was told that Irgo was in Japan. They company said that the Great Dane was supposed to be in Japan and that Irgo would be flown back to the United States on a flight headed to Wichita. The mix-up was an accident and was later on confirmed by United Airlines. A spokesperson for the company told KCTV5:
An error occurred during connections in Denver for two pets sent to the wrong destinations. We have notified our customers that their pets have arrived safely and will arrange to return the pets to them as soon as possible. We apologize for this mistake and are following up with the vendor kennel where they were kept overnight to understand what happened.
In spite of the apology and confirmation from the United Airlines, the couple's worries are far from over. Kara Swindle told KCTV5 that because of Irgo's age, he may not be able to endure a lengthy flight back to the United States. According to his owners, Irgo has an ear infection and he hasn't had any nourishment since he began flying.
"I don’t know if he’s going to be able to sustain this flight, because he is a 10-year-old dog, and he’s never been on a flight before. I honestly don't know if he's going to survive this flight," Kara Swindle told KCTV5. Now, the couple plans to take legal action against the company, according to a tweet by KMBC's Emily Welsh.
The case of Swindle's dog accidentally being sent to Japan is yet another episode for the United Airlines. On Monday, the company came under intense criticism after a dog died on a New York-bound flight. A witness told People magazine that she saw a United Airlines flight attendant stow the dog's carrier into the overhead bin in spite of its owner's insistence that there was a dog in the bag.
Later on, United Airlines acknowledge and apologized for the incident but said that the flight attendant did not know or hear that there was a dog in the bag. Both incidents have caused outrage on social media.
This won't be the first time that the airline faces disapproval for its handling of traveling pets. According to CBS News, at least a million animals traveled in the United States in 2017. Out of that number, 140,000 were on United Airlines flights. Further out of 140,000 24 reportedly died while 18 out of those 24 died on various United Airlines flights.
It's an issue that has attracted the attention of politicians as well. Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy issued a scathing letter to the United Airlines on Wednesday. Kennedy wrote that he demanded an "immediate explanation" about the animal-related deaths on different flights and said, "This pattern of animal deaths and injuries are is simply inexcusable. For many people, pets are members of the family. They should not be treated like insignificant cargo."