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Dec 14th 2012 12:50AM On Friday November 2, 2012, my friend Kendra and I had “confirmed reservations” with United Airlines and were “scheduled” on Flight UA 1095 from IAD-Dulles to ABQ. Our flight was to depart at 6:55pm. Also we had “confirmed reservations” with United Airlines for our four (4) English Setter Show Dogs who were “scheduled” to fly on the same flight (Flight UA 1095 from IAD-Dulles to ABQ). We arrived at United Airlines cargo at approximately 3:30pm. We proceeded to unload all four (4) of our dogs as well as their airline crates. Each of our crates already had an 8 x 11 information sheet taped on the top of the crate as well as a Ziploc bag of dog food. Each information sheet contained neatly typed (in large letters) the name of each dog, the destination of each dog and the name, address and telephone number of ownership. As directed by one of your many employees, we proceeded to put each of our dogs on the scales in their appropriate crates, one at a time, to get the exact weight. We were then instructed to fill out the Airlines paperwork and place it on top of each crate, attach the live animal stickers on each crate with the arrows pointing up, we were also instructed to place the stickers with the different animals on them to each crate, then we were instructed to circle the dog on that sticker. We accomplished everything we were instructed to do, by ourselves with NO help at all from your employees. It took us approximately 30 minutes to accomplish this, knowing that we had a flight to catch. Upon approaching the desk to finish the check-in procedures, we were informed that we had no reservations because our confirmation number started with “EL” instead of a “C”. We had all of our emails from United Airlines showing that we did indeed have reservations for all four (4) of our dogs, scheduled back in August 21, 2012 with airline employee Jule Martell. (See email attachments). We were informed that did not matter, for some reason United Airlines could not fly our dogs. We were bluntly told “you have no reservation, the dogs do not fly”. We stood there in United Airlines cargo area in total disbelief; watching four (4) of your employees totally ignore us as to why our reservations were no longer valid. When we inquired about what we should do concerning flying our dogs, we again were bluntly told “no reservations, they don’t fly”. None of your employees in the area cared or was concerned about our situation. Finally I asked an employee named Phloung if she could make us new reservations for our four (4) dogs as we have a flight to catch at 6:55pm. Phloung called United Airlines reservation number from her cell phone, after being on hold for approximately fifteen (15) minutes she was disconnected. Phloung again called the reservation line and handed the cell phone to Kendra and told her to talk to them, she was also put on hold. Finally, after approximately fifteen (15) more minutes, Kendra spoke to someone in reservations and managed to get all four (4) of our dogs booked on our (Kendra and I) departure flight as well as our return flight as we had originally had reservations for in the first place. During the time while Kendra was on the cell phone making the reservations, a female Supervisor (Name Unknown) came to the desk were Phloung and I were, Phloung explained the situation to her and she (The Supervisor) looked at me and said “no reservation, no flight”. The Supervisor proceeded to write down a telephone number for reservations and left the area without addressing or caring about Kendra or my concerns. The time now was approximately 6:00pm. We had advised your employees on numerous occasions throughout this ordeal that our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:55pm. While we were making reservations Phloung was making copies of the health certificates, rabies certificates, and all other pertinent papers in regards to our four (4) dogs. We then had to ask for zip ties to put on our dogs crates to secure them, and after the crates were zip tied, Phloung informed us that we had to put little plastic dishes in our dogs crates for water. We already had two quart frozen water buckets in each of our dogs crates and informed her that we did not want the little plastic dishes in the creates with our dogs for fear that they would try to eat them, causing serious injury. Once again, we were told our dogs could not fly. I then made a written statement and signed it stating “no plastic to be put in with our dogs”. After enduring all of these setbacks, with no help from any of your employees, we were ready for our four (4) dogs to depart on the same flight as us. The time was approximately 6:20 pm and we still had to park our vehicle in the long term parking lot, take the bus to the terminal to check in our luggage and get our boarding passes, go through security, and take the shuttle over to the gate where our plane was departing from. Needless to say, after literally running for our final destination, when we arrived at the shuttle to go across the runway to our gate the time was 6:53pm. You can imagine the anxiety and stress that we felt with the realization that our flight would be departing at 6:55pm with our four (4) dogs on board going to Albuquerque, New Mexico without us on board. Thankfully this did not happen, due to our flight being delayed approximately 40 minutes.
Upon arriving in Albuquerque, New Mexico, finding the Cargo Area to pick up our four (4) dogs was yet another problem. The directions to and the location of the Cargo Area that were given to us were incorrect. Finally after making contact with United Airlines Main Terminal we were given correct directions to the Cargo Area. The Cargo Area was very dark and the only sign on the Cargo Building was an Air France sign. After walking up to the building, you could see a United Airlines sign under the Air France sign, the United Airlines sign was very small and hard to see because of the dark area. We (Kendra and I) entered the facility and asked the man who was there if he had our four (4) dogs in the building. He stated “yes, but you need to look at something”. We then discovered that the outside of one dog crate and the inside and outside of another dog crate were completely covered in blood. At this initial sight of blood, we were frantic and proceeded to get each of our dogs out of the crates and check them thoroughly all over for injuries. We then took the dogs outside to walk them to confirm that they were alright. To our knowledge, we have no idea as to where all of this blood came from, but we both cried with relief when we finally had our dogs in our possession and away from your Airline.
My friend Kendra is a Professional Dog Show Handler and is liable for all of her client’s dogs, as well as United Airlines is liable for all of the animals flown in their “Pet Safe Program”. Kendra has flown numerous dogs for herself and her clients from different Airports and different Airlines for years and has never had a problem until now. Kendra assured me that she has never experienced the lack of service that we received by your Airline at Dulles Airport.
The employees at the Albuquerque Cargo Area were prompt and professional when assisting us for our return trip home. They had our four (4) dogs ready for the return flight with no trouble or problems.
The employee at the Dulles Cargo Area upon our return home was completely unprofessional and rude. When we (Kendra and I) entered the facility to pick up our four (4) dogs he was on the computer. When we asked about our dogs he just pointed to an area where our dogs were and handed us paperwork to sign. We asked him “several times” for something to cut the zip ties off of the dog’s crates so we could check the dog’s welfare. Finally after ignoring us, he just pointed to a pair of scissors on the desk and continued on the computer. Not once did he speak to us, it was a very uncomfortable situation and totally unacceptable.
The cost to fly our four (4) dogs was well over $3,000.00. The cost for each dog to fly was well over $100.00 more than our ticket to fly comfortably with your airline. For that amount of money, we should have received courteous and prompt service by professional employees in your Cargo Area, as well as proper care of our dogs. We did not.
Kendra and I have clients that expect and demand that we perform at a high level. When we purchase a service such as yours, we would at least expect the same respect as we show our clients. I am sure that all pet owners would think twice about using your Pet Safe Airline if they had the experience that we had.
This complaint is being filed by Kendra and me, with the hopes of improving your Pet Safe Program, starting with the education/training of your Dulles cargo employees. We have heard of multiple bad experiences in regards to flying with your Pet Safe Program from other pet people. I now understand as to why I would choose to drive for 2 days or more with my dog being safe and properly taken care of instead of dealing with United Airlines “Pet Safe Program”.