A dog that was supposed to be shipped to Phoenix but somehow ended up in Ireland has left United Airlines red-faced and an angry pet owner demanding answers.
It’s been quite a journey for Hendrix, a 6-year-old English springer spaniel named after JImi Hendrix, whose startling itinerary had him zipping from the U.S. to Europe and back in a span of 24 hours.
“We regret that… Hendrix was boarded on the wrong aircraft,” said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy, in a statement to NBC News.
“We are reviewing the circumstances surrounding the situation and will take steps to prevent this from happening again.”
The dog’s owner, Meredith Grant, moved to Phoenix from Staten Island, N.Y., last week and asked her mother, Edith Lombardo-Albach, to ship the pet to her new home.
Lombardo-Albach paid about $450 for the ticket and dropped Hendrix off at Newark International last Thursday, asking airline employees “a hundred times” whether he was going to Phoenix to make sure everything was arranged properly, Grant said.
Grant was on her way to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to pick up her pet, when her mom called her in a panic: the dog wasn’t on the flight. Instead, he was somewhere over the Atlantic, heading to the Emerald Isle.
“I felt like anyone would feel if they found out that their child is being sent to Ireland, if the child was on the wrong flight,” Grant told NBC News.
“It was just like panic. Is he all right? Is he going to be OK?”
After realizing the error, the airline immediately took steps to ensure that Hendrix returned to Newark and was reunited with Lombardo-Albach as quickly as possible, said United’s McCarthy.
Meanwhile, the family called the carrier and pleaded with the airline to walk and feed the dog when it arrived in Ireland, Grant said. She was relieved when the pilot of the plane personally called her to tell her Hendrix was being taken care of.
The dog next resurfaced in Newark on Friday, where Grant’s mother made sure he was OK before sending him off to Phoenix. He was finally reunited with his owner on Friday evening.
The dog was excited and happy to be out of the crate, but Grant worries about the effects of the long journey.
“He was exhausted. When we got home, he laid down and I had to keep poking him to make sure he was still breathing,” Grant said. “He’s been acting a little weird, like he’ll just sit and cry.”
She plans to take Hendrix to the vet to have him checked out.
United has apologized to Lombardo-Albach, offered her a complete refund, as well as “a goodwill gesture,” McCarthy said. But Grant said the family has not received an apology and wants to know how the dog wound up on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Meanwhile, United reassured pet owners it is committed to the safe transport of their furry companions.
“Hendrix's experience is not typical of the service we provide to the more than 100,000 pets who travel with us every year,” McCarthy said.
Grant vowed to never to leave her dog in an airline’s hands in the future.
“I would absolutely never ship my dog with United again. Next time, I’m just going to drive and make sure he’s with me so nothing like this happens again,” she said.