=”drop_cap”>When Charles Robinson tried to load his Labrador Retriever on a United Airlines flight from Frankfurt, German, to Washington, recently, an airline employee stopped him. Not only was the cage he’d used for years to carry his dog too small, but the one for his cats didn’t cut, it either.
The cat kennel, he was told, needed screw-down connectors instead of clip-down connectors. Robinson had to buy new cages for his pets and paid extra to have them sent back to the States, at a cost of nearly $1,000.
That didn’t sit well with Robinson, who is a member of the armed services flying on orders. Had United informed him of the requirements in advance, he could have found larger cages that met their standards. Even though he pointed out that the old cages were perfectly acceptable to the airline when he arrived in Germany two years ago, United just reiterated that it stood by its employee’s decision.
“There seemed to be no actual interest in looking at the facts,” he says.
I suggested that Robinson appeal that decision writing and gave him a few airline contacts.
United responded to his brief, polite email with a form response that said it was just following USDA requirements.
These requirements are all located on www.united.com. Please understand if you felt you were being charged unnecessarily for kennels or you felt the kennel size was too large, this would have to been disputed at the airport with a manager or supervisor. Regrettably, as this is after the fact I am unable to assist you.
United offered Robinson two $100 electronic travel certificates to make up for his trouble.
“The reply from United felt like adding insult to injury,” he says.
Robinson asked me to make sure that was United’s final answer. I checked; it was.
One question Robinson’s experience raises: How clearly are those USDA rules disclosed on United’s site?
The general information page on pet travel only says, “The USDA has clear guidelines on allowable temperature limits for animal-holding areas, which airlines must obey.” You have to dig a little deeper to find its page on kennels, which would have helped Robinson understand the rules.
So yes, these requirements are located on United.com — but are they easy to find? No.
Robinson says the United employee who cost him nearly $1,000 didn’t appear to be concerned with the dog’s welfare as much as with her own.
She never even put the dog in her cage. She never took a measurement. She just decided from across the room that the cage was not up to specs.
A word to the wise would be that it was not an isolated incident and the best thing to do is to get it resolved in the airport because if you let it happen, United will blame the victim and walk away with a pile of your money. It’s really too bad.
In other words, United just saw Robinson and his pets as an opportunity to make money. And now, in an effort to make him happy, it’s throwing some funny money — two flight vouchers — at him.
At the same time, you wouldn’t want the animals to be hurt on the long flight from German to the United States. The results could be tragic.
So what do you think? Are the two $100 certificates adequate?
Survey says: no.
(Photo: Paul D avid/Flickr Creative Commons)