Monday, December 2, 2013

Outrage: United Airlines Almost Kills Dog, And Won't Pay Vet Bill Because Owner Won't Shut Up About It

The public relations people at United Airlines must be the stupidest people on earth.
Sedona, almost killed by United Airlines, has
thankfully recovered.  

It's not because their employees almost killed somebody's dog by leaving the poor thing on a hot tarmac in the middle of summer with no water, though that was pretty stupid.

The public relations stupidity came when the dog's owner justifiably complained that United basically tortured her greyhound.

In July, a woman named Janet Sinclair and her greyhound, Sedona, were moving from San Diego to Boston.

The airline's policy was to make sure the dog wasn't exposed to a temperature of 85 degrees for more than 45 minutes, according to Consumerist.

Instead, United workers left the dog out in 91 degree or more  heat for a long time in the sun, in a crate, at a Houston airport during a changeover.

By the time the greyhound got to Boston, Sedona was in full heat stroke, bleeding and near death.

Somehow, a veterinarian managed to save the dog's live, but the bill for the medical treatment came to $2,700 or so.

So far, you can't entirely blame all of United Airlines for almost killing the dog. It's certainly not United's policy to torture defenseless animals. This had to be the work of some clueless employees. It would have been nice, though, to train employees the basics of animal care.

The real travesty was the utterly weasily way United try to get out of paying, and then trying to hush up the whole thing.

First, United tried to claim Sedona had a pre-existing condition, but the dog's vet said no, the problem was caused entirely by United.

So United agreed to pay the $2,700 vet bill. But there was a catch. They would only pay if Sinclair  agreed to a non-disclosure agreement to not tell anybody what happened. Or as United sleazily put it, the dog's owner "declined to accept the terms of the agreement."

There are SO many problems with this. First of all, who is United to dictate the terms of any so called agreement?  It was United that fucked up. If anyone should dictate terms of any agreement, it should be the dog's owner.

Secondly, when someone makes a mistake, a public apology is in order. It's just much more honorable to admit an error, and promise to make sure it doesn't happen again. In United's case people, including the dog's owner, probably would have accepted this, and we would have never heard about this case.

That would have solved United's problem with being embarrassed about the situation.  The public relations people could have done the right thing, and that would have accomplished what they wanted, which is to not let this blow up into a PR nightmare, with no extra work on their part.

Did United actually think they could strong arm Sinclair into shutting her mouth?  Has the United Airlines public relations department never heard of social media?  It's been around for quite awhile now, you know.

Of course, Sinclair has  heard of social media and have created a Facebook page called "United Airlines Almost Killed My Greyhound"

"I still want to be reimbursed," the dog's owner told NBC Bay Area "But I'm not going to be quiet"

So, she's using the Facebook page to great effect in alerting the media. It's getting the attention of tiny little blogs and news outlets like this one, and much bigger television stations and media in other cities. Reuters, the news wire service did a story.  So did the Huffington Post.

The "United Airlines Almost Killed My Greyhound" Facebook page is still very active, at last check.

It's a drip, drip, drip of embarassment for United. But they seem to be still trying to cover things up.

Back around Halloween, somebody tried to block the Facebook page, likely through Facebook's report abuse or spam feature. It's unclear if it was United, some loyal employee of the company or some troll, but it was suspicious.

Plus, since people are paying attention to Sinclair's activism and Sedona's near death, the media are showing this wasn't an isolated incident. WTOP-TV in Washington DC said United killed a dog named Bam Bam by leaving the dog in a crate out on the tarmac.

And other stories have been trickling out.  And probably will continue to trickle out. United might hope this is going to go away, but based on how other outrageous stories have played out, it won't. Social media has become too strong for that.

United has a lot of work to do. Stop killing pets, for one. And maybe, if they're not willing to do the  honorable thing, at least do the public relations competently.

I'll try to reach out to the United Airlines PR department to ask why signing the nondisclosure agreement was so important and why they think they have the right to do that, but I'm not optimistic.

They've just been releasing that bland statement to the media about wanting to care properly for passengers and they offered to reimburse but that stubborn Sinclair wouldn't sign the nondisclosure agreement.

As if the nondisclosure agreement was far more important than Sedona's life, or any other dog or cat's life.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for covering our story. We are trying our best to alert the public, especially with so many people planning to travel during the holidays. Janet Sinclair