RIP Kokito


A picture of Kokito and his family taken from NBC News

Melina Lotito, Staff Writer

Little did dog owners Catelina Robledo, along with her newborn baby, and Sophia Ceballos know that this flight would be the last time they saw their precious Kokito. On Monday, March 12th, a family lost their beloved companion due to suffocation on a United Airlines flight while flying from Houston to LaGuardia Airport in New York. It was on Flight 1284 that a 10-month-old French Bulldog died after suffocating in a more than three-hour-flight in an overhead compartment bin. When boarding the flight, the owner, Catelina Robledo, was instructed by a flight attendant to place her dog in the overhead bin. According to NPR news, the woman was set on leaving her dog under her seat but the stewardess insisted on placing the carrier in the overhead compartment. According to NPR news, the flight lasted three hours and 25 minutes according to an online tracking site.

A picture of French Bulldog, Kokito taken from The New York Times

French Bulldogs already have respiratory problems, to begin with. The French Bulldog, Shih Tzu, Standard Bulldog, Boxer, Pug, Boston Terrier, and Pekingese all suffer from the same genetic disorder, Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome, according to Pawedin. All these types of dogs have a “pushed in” face that make it difficult to breathe.

After learning of the tragedy, other passengers were left in disbelief, shock, and guilt, knowing they could have done something to prevent this from happening. According to ABC 7 News, the family of Kokito alerted the flight attendant multiple times that their dog was in the bag. The flight attendant then responded, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was a dog. I thought it was a normal bag.” Ceballos claims that they did tell her there was a dog inside the bag and that she was lying.

There still seems to be confusion on whether the flight attendant knew there was a dog in the carrier. According to a video from ABC News, the owners declared that the flight attendant was well aware there was a dog inside, but after the plane landed and Kokito’s deceased body was discovered, the flight attendant was in shock and didn’t know there was a dog in there. United Airlines is currently investigating the incident.

Killings of domestic companions by United Airlines are nothing new. According to The Outline, animals have been dying on United Airline flights for years. In 2015, 14 animals died and 9 were injured on United flights. In 2016, 9 animals died and 14 were injured. And just last year, 13 animals were injured and 18 animals died. Along with animal cruelty and mistreatment, United Airlines has encountered bad press in the past as a result of several other incidents, including one in which a passenger was dragged off a plane, another in which they sent a dog to the wrong airport, and a third involving a confrontation with a mother, her baby, and its stroller. However, the airline might actually make a change to their pet safety regulations with the growing bad press they are receiving. According to NPS News, passengers aboard flight number 1284 heard barking in the beginning, but then the barking stopped. The dog was found deceased at the end of the flight. According to NPS News, Maggie Gremminger tweeted, “She sat in the airplane aisle on the floor crying, and all of the surrounding passengers were utterly stunned.”

If airlines choose to allow pets on airlines, I think they should make planes a safer environment for them. They should create seating specifically for passengers who do choose to bring pets.

— Olivia Wong ('20)

“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” United Airlines said in a statement according to CBS News. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences.”

According to a video from ABC News, the United Airlines policy on pets and air travel is that they must be stored in kennel bags and then kept under the seat in front of them. Clearly, the dog had no business being stored in an overhead compartment.

United Airlines will be facing big consequences—looking at a big lawsuit and a bad reputation to follow. “I think United Airlines will lose money from many passengers who do carry pets on planes,” said Olivia Wong (’20). “These people probably feel unsafe to bring their dogs or other pets on flights after this incident.”

On March 15th, John Kennedy, a Republican senator of Louisiana, and Catherine Cortez, a Democratic senator of Nevada, created a bill with the aim of preventing airlines from being able to store pets in overhead compartment bins: the Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act or WOOF.

WOOF will ensure that no animals are kept in overhead compartments by making airlines who violate this policy pay large fines. Some people think that traveling pets should get their own seat on a plane. “If airlines choose to allow pets on airlines, I think they should make planes a safer environment for them,” said Wong. “ They should create seating specifically for passengers who do choose to bring pets.”

But did our society really need a bill to be passed to understand that it is NOT okay for animals to be stored in overhead compartments? Animals are members of peoples’ families and they should not be treated like property. Kokito was a living, breathing animal and he was a part of a family.