We booked a dog to fly with us to Denver on May 13, 2011; the flight was for May 31, 2011. When we arrived at the airport at 4:20 am four desk agents completely ignored us even though we were struggling with a cart of luggage and large dog in a crate. Not one of them turned and asked if they could help us while we stood waiting at the desk - they just chatted to themselves and looked worried at the size of the dog crate. The official then proceeded to tell that we could not get on the flight as our DOG WOULD DIE in the cargo hold because it was too cold to fly. To put things in context the seasonal temperatures were average for this region at this time of year with daytime temps varying from 10-15C. As a veterinarian this was absurd to hear. It is nearly June and the seasonal temperature is average to above average. They said we would need to wait and check in late and only if the temperature increased could we fly. One hour latter without telling us they just rescheduled our tickets for latter that day. When we went to the desk they said it was still too cold. I explained this dog had a connecting flight to make in Denver and was overweight so did not need to worry about it being a little cold - being too hot would be more of an issue. I also explained we flew a dog out of here 2 yrs ago in the late December so if a dog that is used to living at -40C on the Prairie could fly in the winter it was not reasonable to not let the dog fly.
According to airline officials I spoke with on your UNITED 1-800 number, it has to be above 40 F to fly. I spent 50 minutes plus, most of it on hold with insincere apologies being made but with no help provided. I should probably consider myself lucky to even have gotten a hold off someone on the phone because your system is designed not to allow people to be helped or complain - terrible service. Needless to say we did not get on the plane at 6:30 am even though the ambient temperature at 7 am which is the first time I could check it was between 46 and 50 F (according to internet and home thermometer reading respectively). We were forced to wait in the airport with a large dog for 10 hrs and our dog was booked on to the 2 pm flight at 7 am. The bigger welfare issue for the dog was making her wait all day in an airport. If the temperature by 7 was above 46 then by 6:30 it was likely above 40 F. Also consider that your own website recommends traveling with pets in the morning and the evening to avoid hot temperatures. And if temperatures is such an overarching issue, despite seasonally normal temperatures here this day, why book the dog on the plan for 2 pm five hours ahead of time? There could be no way of knowing what the temperature would be at 2 pm. I submit that the reason my dog was not allowed to board the plane was because your cargo hold was full not because my dog was in danger from the temperatures. Given that the outside temperature is fairly average for this time of year we should have not have been allowed to even book a ticket for pet to fly at 6:30 am if the airline had no intention of honoring this. Shame on you!!! The biggest issue for me over this whole affair is the clear lack of regard for the animal's welfare shown by those who decided it was more humane to have the animal have to sit in an airport all day long rather than be allowed to get on a plan when the outside temp was hovering but maybe not quite at 40F (however, I am confident that by 6:30 when the flight was due to leave it would have been above the required 40 F since it was 46 by 7 am!! ). The costumer service at the Saskatoon Airport by the United staff was appalling - rivals my worst experience ever with an airline. All of your agents should be reprimanded for having such lack of regard for animal safety and welfare. I hope I never have the misfortune to travel United ever again and will certainly let our travel agent know about the horrible service we received.
When I went to their website can you see any tab that says :Do you have a complaint? No - they apparently do not want to hear from their customers at all. When you do try to email something they ask you for information relating to contracts and group contracts that is mandatory but not applicable so who knows where the email ends up. This is the worst airline ever!!!