5 On Your Side

Passenger Howls About Airline's Dog Carrier Policy

Posted August 14, 2006
Updated November 10, 2006

— Darlene Morlett loves her 6-year-old Maltese, Emily -- but not enough to invest three round-trip airline tickets for the dog to take a trip to California.

The problem came in May, when the Morlett and Emily were booked on a Continental Airlines flight to San Diego. Morlett paid an extra $160 for Emily to fly in the cabin.

The dog was in a carrier under the seat in front of Morlett. But a flight attendant asked her to get off the plane so that they could measure the carrier, which Morlett said she used on three previous plane trips.

"She had to call somebody to come get a measuring tape, and in the meantime, I see my plane take off," Morlett said.

Continental representatives told her the carrier was an inch too tall. So, she booked a later flight -- she paid an extra $193 for another round-trip ticket for Emily -- and took a cab home so she could buy a kennel that could go in the plane's cargo area.

Then, the airline lost track of Emily during a connection. Once she was located, she had to pay another $193 for a third ticket for the dog, she said.

She also had to pay $654 to change her connecting flight because the one she was booked on didn't have a pressurized cargo area for dogs, she said.

"At the time, I'd been through so much, I just paid it and thought I'm going to deal with this later," Morlett said.

She said she was told she could get a refund later. She wrote two letters to Continental and had several phone conversations, but the airline wouldn't budge, she said.

So, Morlett turned to 5 On Your Side for help. Continental then agreed to credit her for $546 to offset the cost of all three of Emily's round-trip tickets.

Continental spokeswoman Suzannah Thurston said the refund problem probably happened because two departments -- passenger and pet care -- were involved in the dispute.

Federal Aviation Administration rules don't give specific dimensions for pet carriers, saying only that the carrier must be small enough to fit under a seat without blocking anyone's path.

Officials said it's important to check with the airline before flying for specific regulations.

Morlett is satisfied with the refund. But she said she won't take anymore plane trips with Emily.

"We've done a lot of traveling together and she does really well. But I can't go through that again," she said.

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