In mid-May, United Airlines announced several new travel policies that were ostensibly aimed at making pets safer when they travel. Among their new policies is a “summer travel ban” – from May to October every year, pets will no longer be allowed to fly as baggage or cargo to Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix or Tucson. Why? High temperatures at these locations put pets who aren’t in cabin at risk of becoming sick or dying from heat-related causes.
Seems like the United is doing the right thing for animals, doesn’t it? We should give them a big round of applause, right?
United (and American Airlines, and Delta) all have some restrictions on certain airports during specific seasons. American won’t fly baggage/cargo pets into the same four airlines that United prohibits during the summer months. Delta is concerned about summer travel, but also pays attention to winter temps, and refuses to fly pets into Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Sun Valley or Twin Falls, Idaho during the winter months.
But what all three major U.S. airlines fail to adequately address is that each of them has hubs that are subject to extreme temperatures. And many animals end up being subject to these extreme temperatures on their journeys. And many animals become ill, or do not survive their journeys through the hubs.
Take a look at where the hubs are:
Cities like Miami (American Airlines) and Atlanta (Delta) are regularly hot, hot, hot and HUMID during the summer months. And United’s hub in Houston is often brutally hot – and has been the scene of many, many cases of heat-related injury and death. (Including one that is very personal to me, my friend Michael Jarboe’s dog Bam-Bam. We covered this extensively on our Facebook page shortly after it happened in 2012).
On the cold side, Delta’s hubs at Minneapolis and Detroit are notable for their freezing temps, as are American’s and United’s hubs at O’Hare. Cases of animals dying from the cold while in the care of the airlines are more rare than heat related deaths, but are not unheard of.
Here’s the bottom line: if airlines REALLY wanted to make sure animals were safe, they wouldn’t allow them to fly through places like Houston or Miami in the summer, or Chicago or Detroit in the winter. But that simply isn’t going to happen.
The “hub” system means that it is almost impossible to fly from Point A to Point B in the U.S. without going through a hub unless you happen to be going directly between two heavily travelled cities – like New York to Los Angeles. (Here’s United’s route map… note the very large number of route lines going into and out of the hub cities, which are printed in red.) The vast majority of flights go through hub cities. And if your pet is going to be in cargo or checked baggage, then your pet will have to deal with the weather condition in the hub.
Yes – I know that all the airlines have policies that say if the temperature is above or below a certain threshold at any point in your pet’s journey, the pet will not be transported. I also know the airlines routinely violate their own policies.
And I also know that animals get very sick and often die because of these violations.
An airline like United saying it won’t fly pets into Palm Springs during the summer doesn’t impress me. United’s flight schedule reveals only ten flights per weekday go into Palm Springs. Compare that with over 400 flights per day going into or out of Houston.
Has United really made the dogs and cats in their care a priority this summer? I don’t think so. And neither has Delta, or American Airlines.
But they have made a gesture that lets a willing customer think they care.
Don’t be fooled.
The animals are counting on you to pay attention to these types of corporate shenanigans. Their lives depend on your discernment.
PS… Please spread the word about this! If you have a friend, colleague, neighbor or acquaintance who is thinking about flying with a pet this summer, please show them this post, and then tell them I would be happy to help them find a way to get their fur baby to their destination. I’m available at 305-582-5884 and if I can’t take their call right away, I’ll get back to them within an hour or two. Let’s keep the animals safe this summer!!