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United AirlinesUnited Airlines has made headlines again—and not in a good way. Airline officials are calling United’s most recent blunder a “tragic accident.”

On Monday, a passenger was instructed by a United Airlines flight attendant to put her family’s French bulldog in the overhead compartment. This had me very confused as I have ridden on numerous flights where dogs have always been stowed under the seat.

After listening to the dog cry for the first two hours of the 3-1/2 flight, the dog finally became quiet. The woman claims she was unable to attend to the dog because she was taking care of her baby and there was a lot of turbulence during the flight. According to her, the flight crew also did nothing as the dog barked.

Once the flight had landed, it was discovered that the pet had died.

The flight attendant claimed that she did not know the dog was inside the carrier.

Here is United Airlines' statement:

"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."

In addition to this, spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said United has been in contact with the passenger who owned the dog and offered to pay for a necropsy (an autopsy for animals).

This isn’t the first time that we’ve written about a United Airlines crisis but I sure hope it’s the last for a while. I don’t know how much more the airline can take before the effects of these mistakes takes a permanent toll.

So what are the next steps for United?

I would agree with their initial approach—there definitely needs to be a thorough investigation. There is inevitably so much more to the story than what is currently being reported. And the sooner they can complete their investigation, the better.

From that point forward, it’s a matter of clearly communicating to the family and the public on what exactly went wrong and how they plan on fixing it.

As a full-service public relations agency in Phoenix, we’ve always advised our clients in having a crisis communications plan in place. Whatever steps the airline will take, it is in its best interest to have a solid team of communications professionals helping to make any and all major decisions.

Breanne Krager
Breanne Krager
A former HMA Public Relations employee.

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