US Airlines with the Best and Worst Pet Safety Records
On a monthly basis since May 2005, all commercial U.S. passenger airlines must let the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) know how many pets were lost, injured or killed while being transported. The airlines do not, however, have to report the total number of pets they flew.
Air Cargo World reports that fewer than 0.01 percent of pets that fly have an incident.
United Airlines’ manager of cargo marketing, Tony Randgaard, told Air Cargo World the airline transports more than 110,000 pets every year. It has reported 36 deaths since 2005 – about 0.05 percent of pets that flew on the airline.
“Please note that the data for each airline does not necessarily indicate the quality of service that it provides, because the number of animals transported by each airline varies widely,” writes Jol A. Silversmith on ThirdAmendment.com.
Still, it is worth noting that Delta Airlines, which has had the most pet incidents over the eight-year period, has reported 62 deaths since May 2005, which is 26 percent more than Continental Airlines (49 deaths), the company with the next-to-worst incident record.
Most recently, from January to August 2013, Alaska Airlines reported the most pet deaths (8) and injuries (4).
The top five causes of injury or death to pets reported to the DOT are:
- A pre-existing medical condition
- Escaping from the crate
- Natural death
Marcel Brozius of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) blames pet parents, not the airlines, for most of these incidents.
“Usually when something goes wrong and an animal passes away, it has to do something with the animal [not being] healthy already going onto the flight,” he told Air Cargo World. “Sometimes, owners give them tranquilizers, which can be fatal because it interacts with their system. It lowers their blood pressure and so on.”
Small dogs that can travel inside the plane’s cabin have a better chance of a safe flight than dogs that must be transported in the cargo hold. Most airlines won’t allow dogs to fly as cargo during hot summer months, and ban short-snouted (brachycephalic) dogs, such as Boxers and Bulldogs, all year long.
Dr. Chris Cowing, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association, told NBC Bay Area that pet parents should consider flying their dogs as cargo only as a last resort, especially if the dog is older or has health issues.
Major U.S. Airlines With the Best Pet Safety Records
These major airlines had the lowest number of reported pet incidents between May 2005 and August 2013:
- Frontier Airlines: 0 deaths; 3 injuries; 0 lost
- US Airways: 1 death; 1 injury; 1 lost
- Northwest Airlines: 5 deaths; 7 injuries; 4 lost
Major U.S. Airlines With the Worst Pet Safety Records
These airlines reported the most pet incidents between May 2005 and August 2013:
- Delta Airlines: 62 deaths; 21 injuries; 12 lost
- Continental Airlines: 49 deaths; 16 injuries; 4 lost
- American Airlines: 45 deaths; 6 injuries; 4 lost
- United Airlines: 36 deaths; 0 injuries; 6 lost
- Alaska Airlines: 33 deaths; 42 injuries; 4 lost