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  1. ITV Report

'He was like a brother' - Girl's tears after puppy dies onboard plane after being forced into overhead locker

An 11-year-old girl broke down in tears as she recounted the moment her puppy was found dead onboard a United Airlines plane after a flight attendant forced her family to put it in an overhead locker.

United has since taken “full responsibility” for the death of Kokito and apologised to Sophia Ceballos' family.

The schoolgirl sobbed as she told how the puppy was "part of the family" and "like a brother" to her.

She added that her mother, Catalina Robledo, argued with the flight attendant that there was a dog in the pet carrier, but was told "it doesn't matter".

"She put it up [in the overhead locker] like baggage," Sophia said.

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Witnesses onboard the plane said the family were “adamant” about keeping the dog under their seats, but they were forced to puppy underneath her seat but was forced to store it in the overhead locker.

The dog had been heard barking during the three and half hour journey from Houston to New York before going silent.

Fellow passenger Maggie Gremminger, who supported the distraught owners, tweeted: “At the end of the flight, the woman found her dog, deceased. She sat in the airplane aisle on the floor crying, and all of surrounding passengers were utterly stunned.”

“I am disgusted and traumatized. Pets are family. How could a trained flight attendant instruct a passenger to place her dog in that bin…”

“Why would the flight attendant force the woman to put her dog there? I could have done something. I’m so upset.”

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United Airlines has apologised for the incident, saying: "This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin.

"We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again."

The family have been refunded the cost of their tickets, including the $125 (£90) pet cabin fee.

In a blog post, Gremminger says that she and another passenger were offered $75 (£54) in credit “for staying and working with them” but they both refused.

Guidelines on the United Airlines website states "the kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times."

  • What are the rules for passengers taking pets on airlines operating in the UK?

The rules for taking a pet on board a flight vary for each airline.

Major airlines such as British Airways and Ryanair have restricted pet travel unless for medical purposes.

Others judge the weight of the animal. If the pet is too heavy then it will be safely stored in the hold of the plane.

A list of airlines which operate in the UK and allow pet travel can be found here.