Catalina Robledo, along with her 11-year-old daughter and 2-month-old son, brought family dog, Kokito, onto a flight from Houston to New York in a pet carrier. The owner stored the canine under the seat in front of her but was later told by a flight attendant to move the carrier, with Kokito inside, to the overhead bin. Robledo resisted the direction, but ultimately followed the flight attendant’s instruction.
At the end of the flight, when Robledo went to retrieve her dog, who was heard barking at least 30 minutes into the flight, she discovered her pet had died during the trip.
“We have spoken to the family, our crew and a number of passengers who were seated nearby. We have learned that the customer did tell the flight attendant that there was a dog in the carrier. However, our flight attendant did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin,” United spokesperson Maggie Schmerin told PEOPLE in a statement. “As we stated, we take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident. We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support.”
In response to the tragedy, Schmerin said the airline plans to change its pet travel policy to ensure something like what happened to Robledo and Kokito never occurs again.
“To prevent this from happening again, by April we will issue bright colored bag tags to customers traveling with in-cabin pets. This visual tag will further help our flight attendants identify pets in-cabin,” Schmerin added in her statement to PEOPLE.
Unfortunately, shortly after Kokito’s death there was another pet travel problem at United. On Tuesday, a family that moved from Oregon to Kansas discovered their dog, a German shepherd named Irgo, who had to fly in the cargo hold of a different flight, was accidentally flown to Japan instead of to the family’s new hometown.