United dog death on flight is latest black eye for carrier

A small dog died during a United Airlines flight from Houston to New York on Monday, after an attendant told its owner to place the pooch in an overhead bin.

“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” a United spokesman said. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them.”

The owner found the animal dead at the conclusion of the 3-1/2 hour flight.

Passenger Maggie Gremminger tweeted her reaction.

United led U.S. carriers with 18 animal deaths in 2017, a Department of Transportation report says.

Monday’s dog death was just the latest in a string of controversies for the airline – which has been struggling to regain passenger confidence since April, when a traveler was forcibly removed from a jet at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The incident involving passenger Dr. David Dao had lawmakers calling for a hearing on the airline industry's treatment of passengers and put CEO Oscar Munoz in the hot seat for his handling of what become a P.R. crisis.

Oscar Munoz, Chief Executive Officer, United Airlines, speaks during the 2017 Aviation Summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce in Washington, D.C., on March 2, 2017.

Later that month, United was the target of ire on social media after a large rabbit traveling in the cargo hold died on a flight from Britain to the U.S.

In August, a Houston family blamed United for the death of their 5-year-old King Charles spaniel. The dog was in the cargo hold of a flight that was held on the tarmac for two hours before taking off for San Francisco.

Last March, two teenage girls were barred from a flight for wearing leggings after a gate agent said their clothing was inappropriate. The airline defended the gate agent's decision, as reported by the New York Times. Still, UAL was blasted on social media for the decision and rival Delta jumped on the snafu to promote itself as an airline that is clothing friendly.

Despite the string of missteps, United shares have gained 9% over the past 12-months. Trading between a low of $56.51 a share and a high of $83.04.

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Other airlines also have come under scrutiny in recent months, as carriers have tightened rules involving the transport of animals, especially those used for emotional support.

 The Associated Press and Dow Jones contributed to this article.