United Suspends New Reservations for Pet Cargo Travel, Leaving Larger Dogs Without a Way to Fly
United Airlines announced on Tuesday it will no longer be accepting new travel reservations for its PetSafe program.
This is the program that the airline uses to fly pets that do not qualify for in-cabin travel, which includes dogs over 20 pounds, to their destinations through the cargo holds of United planes. This announcement comes after a string of incidents involving animals on United planes, including two of which occurred with pets traveling via PetSafe.
In the statement announcing the news, United wrote it has suspended the program to perform a “thorough and systematic review of our program for pets that travel in the cargo compartment to make improvements that will ensure the best possible experience for our customers and their pets.”
The airline expects to complete the review on May 1 of this year. Until the review, which is being done in partnership with “independent experts in pet safety, comfort and travel,” is done, PetSafe will not take new reservations, which could leave some with future travel plans for their pets looking for other options.
“We will honor any existing PetSafe reservations confirmed as of March 20, 2018, although we will assist any customer that wishes to cancel their reservation. In the meantime, we are proactively reaching out to customers with confirmed reservations between today and May 1 to inform them of this announcement and explain what this means for their travel,” United wrote in the announcement.
This suspension does not affect owners traveling with pets in-cabin, though United has announced plans to roll out a new pet policy for in-cabin pets following the death of Kokito, the French bulldog who died after being forced to travel in a United plane’s overhead bin.
“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,” United spokesperson Maggie Schmerin said in a statement to PEOPLE.
For those looking to travel with a pet that does not qualify to fly in the plane’s cabin, there are other airlines that offer cargo travel.