Air cargo services are very important for managing and controlling the flow of goods, energy, information, products, serves, people, and even animals, from the source to the final destination. United Airlines has been very good at this, at least, until recently.
In case you haven’t been following the news lately, United Airlines has received some negative coverage due to some mishaps in their pet transportation business over the past month. A German Shepard was mistakenly sent to Tokyo instead of Kansas, and another dog passed away on a flight after being forced to ride in the overhead compartment. After which, the airline had announced that it would be suspending the PetSafe program until a thorough and systematic review of the program is completed.
The cases this month were not isolated incidents for United, unfortunately. In terms of “incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of animals during air transportation,” United has the lead over all other major airlines each year since 2015, according to the Outline. In 2015, 14 animals died and nine were injured on a United flight. The year 2016 saw nine animals deaths and 14 injuries. And 2017 then saw 13 animal injuries and 18 deaths. For 2017, United was responsible for 31 of the 40 animal incidents reported by the Department of Transportation.
The “funny” part about it is that the pet shipping portion of the business is a very small one. The pet transportation cargo business generates a very small part of their cargo revenue, according to the company. The cargo unit generated just over $1 billion last year, compared to the company’s overall operating revenue of $37.7 billion. If the revenue stream is so small, and it’s causing all these problems, why not just stop doing it?
“Doing away with something would be the simplest thing to do,” United’s CEO Oscar Munoz said. “That’s not what we’re going to do. That’s not what United’s about.”
Even though their business is small, United still ships more animals than any other airline. More than 138,178 animals were transported by United last year. If they stopped this service, it would mean they would be less competitive.
“They do it as a customer service,” said George Hobica, founder of fare-tracking website Airfarewatchdog.com. “If United didn’t and Delta did, [travelers] would fly on Delta.”