United Airlines has had a tough go the past year with either unruly passengers, a gas leak, or terrible flight attendants. Here's another one to add to the list.
A mother was traveling with her newborn, her 7-year-old daughter, and their 10-month-old French bulldog. The dog was reportedly in a TSA-approved pet carrier.
When Catalina Robledo and her family boarded the plane, a flight attendant forced her to store the dog in the overhead compartment for the duration of the four-hour flight from Houston to New York City. Other passengers began to talk about how "stunned" they were about an animal being stowed in the overhead bin.
“The flight attendant told the passenger that her bag was blocking part of the aisle. I could not see it, as I was already in my seat, but it sounded like it was somehow not completely fitting beneath the seat in front of her,” Maggie Gremminger, one who witnessed the encounter just one row back, told PEOPLE.
“After the flight attendant asked her to move it above, the woman adamantly refused, communicating her dog was in the bag. “She was saying verbally, ‘My dog is in here, no, this is my dog.’" Gremminger continued. "There was some back and forth before finally the flight attendant convinced her to move the carrier to the bin above.”
That's when Gremminger pulled out her phone and did some research. Sadly, she couldn't find any information before she had to turn off her phone.
Throughout most of the flight, passengers could hear the poor pup barking. While Robledo wanted to open the bin, the turbulence was rough. The family said that she heard their puppy call out during take-off, during the 30 minutes of turbulence, for a total of two hours. Then the dog became silent.
When the plane landed, Robledo opened the overhead compartment; she soon realized that her beloved dog had died. She apparently began to "rock back and forth" with the dog as her daughter began to cry.
According to Gremminger, she said that once the flight attendance discovered the death of the dog, she became "frazzled," and kept insisting she didn't know that there was a dog inside the carrier.
7-year-old Sophia Ceballos, Robledo's daughter, told ABC13 that the flight attendant lied about the tragic incident.
“While we were flying, the dog started barking and barking and there was no flight attendants coming," Ceballos said. "We couldn't stand up because there was a lot of turbulence so we weren't allowed to."
"She [flight attendant] said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was a dog. I thought it was a normal bag.' But we told her it was a dog, she's lying,” the traumatized, young girl said.
PEOPLE reached out the United Airlines for a statement, and an airline spokesperson, Maggie Schmerin, wrote back saying:
“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. 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.”
According to the Department of Transportation, in 2017 United Airlines had the highest number of animal deaths and injuries of all the U.S. airlines. There were 18 animals killed and 13 were injured.
“My only thought is that if it had been me, it would have been a hard scenario. The flight attendant is the authority figure, who should be trusted. I was thinking ‘maybe there is an improved ventilation system’ or something of the sorts,” Gremminger said. “Also, the owner had an infant and other daughter. Causing a scene before flight could risk being kicked off the flight. I can only imagine she felt stuck in her decision to comply.”
What would you have done? Let us know in the comment section of our Facebook page! In other news, during mid-flight, a woman yells “I am God” and tries to open the cabin door. Check out the video and details here.