French bulldog airline tragedy raises questions and ideas


I’m not going to rehash the sad details of the French bulldog puppy who died when locked in an overhead baggage bin on a United Airlines flight at the instruction of the attendant. This was a terribly sad consequence of airlines’ grudging policies regarding pets. The bigger picture is that airlines should wise up, put on their business hats, do better for pets traveling with their families and make some money doing it.

Back in the day, when the only animals allowed on planes were seeing-eye dogs, a friend of mine slapped some gauze bandages on one eye, stared blankly out of the other and, with his goofy Doberman on a six-inch lead, claimed he was his seeing-eye dog, animals who are known for their impeccable behavior. The ruse held water long enough for the plane to get off the ground and climb to altitude, but it fell apart when the Dobie leaped over the seat and took off down the aisle. Not exemplary, but the point is that people will go to great lengths to have their pets travel safely by their side on board the plane of their choice.

It’s a problem begging for a solution, and a colleague of mine came up with what I think is a great idea. Rather than obligating people to jump through hoops to get their dog, cat or even the occasional peacock on a flight, why not designate pet-friendly flights, swapping out some seats for pet crates that lock in place and selling them as upgraded seats? Money spent on pets constituted a $70 billion business in 2017. Wake up and smell the money!

Sure, there are some technicalities to figure out, but wouldn’t it be worth it to an enterprising airline and wouldn’t it be cool to take your potbellied pig along on a flight without having to claim that he is your therapist?

No one wants to put their animal family member through the stress of being locked in a baggage compartment that could accidently decompress or go unheated if the crew slips up. It’s a nightmare that many people avoid by driving rather than flying. Others go the therapist route. The bottom line is that people love their pets and would celebrate any airline that took advantage of that fact.