Heartbreak as dog dies on United flight after crew forces flier to stick it in overhead bin - NJ.com

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A family’s French bulldog apparently suffocated during a flight from Houston to New York on Monday when a United Airlines flight attendant forced them to place the pet in an overhead compartment for the three-hour trip.

United confirmed the incident in an email to NJ Advance Media, saying the company is investigating.

“I witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a woman to put her dog carrier with live dog in an overhead bin,” Maggie Gremminger of New York City, wrote on Facebook.

The dog’s owners were a woman, her teenage daughter and an infant who were traveling from Texas to LaGuardia Airport, Gremminger told Buzzfeed.

They were on United 1284, which arrived at LaGuardia shortly before 11 p.m. Monday.

The passenger had the black French bulldog in a standard pet carrier, which she initially placed under the seat in front of her, according to Gremminger.

When the flight attendant came by, she told the woman needed to place the carrier in the overhead bin.

“It was clearly a dog and while the customer was adamant about leaving it under the seat, the attendant pushed her to do so,” Gremminger said in a tweet.

“At the end of the flight, the woman found her dog deceased. She sat in the airplane aisle on the floor crying, and all of surrounding passengers were utterly stunned,” Gremminger tweeted.

When the woman was forced to place the dog in the overhead bin, Gremminger exchanged glances with the man next to her. 

“We both knew it didn’t feel right,” Gremminger said. “I wish I had followed my gut and done something. I am just broken right now. And sleep deprived. And so, so, so sad for those lovely people who never knew what was happening right above them.”

Gremminger said on Twitter she wants to find out the name of the dog’s owners so she can help them. She added that United offered her and another passenger who witnessed the incident a $75 voucher each but they turned it down.

Gremminger, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, wrote on Facebook the woman and those around her must have thought there was air flow in the overhead bins.

“I’m sure the owner is going through the worst guilt,” Gremminger wrote. “She made sure the flight attendant understood there was her dog and when the flight attendant still pushed her. I think maybe she assumed it surely was safe. The rationality in that moment must have so confusing.”

United released a statement Tuesday apologizing for the incident.

“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” United said. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”

On Tuesday evening, a man named Brayan Castano told BuzzFeed his puppy Kokito was the dog on the flight. He said the puppy was traveling with his wife Catalina and their two kids back home to New York from a visit with him in Houston, where he is currently working.

Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at tattrino@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.