United charters private jet to fly home dog mistakenly sent to Japan

  • United said chartering a private jet was the fastest way to reunite Irgo with his owners.
  • The airline is grappling with a public outcry about a French bulldog that died after it was put in an overhead bin.
  • A mixup between two dogs sent the German shepherd to Tokyo.
United Airlines 787 Boeing Dreamliner
Seth Miller | CNBC
United Airlines 787 Boeing Dreamliner

United Airlines chartered a private jet to fly home a German shepherd it mistakenly transported to Tokyo earlier this week.

Days after an outcry over the death of a United passenger's French bulldog, the airline appeared to want to get 10-year-old Irgo back to his family in Kansas City, Missouri, quickly.

The dog that died on Monday, Kokito, had been in a carrier that was put in an overhead bin at the insistence of a flight attendant.

Irgo has been reunited with his human family, according to Kara Swindle, his owner. She posted a video late Thursday showing Irgo greeting his family with an energetically wagging tail, jumping up to lick their faces, with Wichita posted as the location. She also posted photos of the dog on the private jet, posing with the flight crew.

The dog was mistakenly sent to Japan, while another dog that was meant to fly to Tokyo, a Great Dane, appeared when Swindle went to pick up Irgo.

United declined to say how much the trip back cost. But Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel consulting firm Atmosphere Research Group, said that whatever it cost, it was likely a small price to pay after the death of Kokito.

"It is pennies to try to stop that news," he said.

The Department of Transportation said it is looking into Kokito's death. Two U.S. senators proposed a ban on dogs being put into airplanes' overhead bins, known as the Welfare of our Furry Friends, or WOOFF Act. That proposal came even though United and other flight attendants are trained to instruct passengers to keep in-cabin animals under the seat in front of them in their carriers.

United's management has faced a string of public relations disasters over the last year, starting with the violent dragging of passenger David Dao off a flight to make room for commuting crew.

Investors did not appear to be terribly upset. Shares of United Continental Holdings were trading 0.6 percent lower on Friday afternoon.

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