A woman in Western Australia says that Qantas is responsible for her dog’s death after he was left on the tarmac in a crate on a 30-degree day while waiting to get on a delayed flight.
In a Facebook post, Kay Newman described her experience traveling with Duke, her 5-year-old boxer, on a Qantas flight from Sydney to Brisbane on December 19, 2019.
“December 19 was a hot day,” she wrote. “The forecast for the day was 34 degrees Celsius but it reached 39 degrees Celsius, probably a lot hotter out on the airport tarmac.”
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, which has a weather observatory at Sydney Airport, the high that day was 39.3 degrees Celsius.
Newman wrote her post on January 9, and Australian media began reporting on it this week.
She says she was concerned about the heat but was reassured by Qantas freight staff that Duke “would only be kept on the tarmac for a few minutes and that he would be kept under cover until they were ready to put him on the plane.”
“I requested and was given permission to wait with Duke in the air-conditioned office until the last possible minute before he was placed in his crate for the flight,” she said.
Newman says she did everything to keep Duke cool, including placing frozen water bottles in his crate with him. But the flight was delayed, and when she peered out the window near the boarding gates, she saw Duke’s crate was already on the tarmac.
“I’m not sure how long he’d already been there but as I watched, five, ten, fifteen minutes passed, and he was still out there, in the crate, in that heat,” she wrote.
She says she was distressed to see him out there, and explained to Qantas staff that boxers do not cope well in extreme heat.
“I was told that I needed to board as I was the last passenger and that Duke would now be loaded and that the cargo hold is air conditioned so he will be fine,” she wrote.
She said staff on the plane noticed her distress, and told the captain, who checked in with ground crew. The message was that Duke was fine.
But when Newman landed in Brisbane, she was told that Duke had died.
“My poor boy suffered a terrible death because he was left out on the tarmac by Qantas baggage handlers, in the searing heat whilst they loaded all the passenger’s luggage and post parcels,” Newman said.
“His death was 100% preventable. Qantas staff did not exercise their duty of care or use any common sense. Instead, they treated Duke as though he was nothing but luggage and as a result, he suffered an unimaginable death.”
Newman said that in the weeks since Duke’s death, she has yet to get a proper answer from Qantas about what happened.
Qantas admitted leaving Duke out ‘for longer than usual’
A spokesman for Qantas told news.com.au that the flight’s delay left Duke on the tarmac for longer than anticipated.
He said: “There was an unexpected delay with the flight which meant he was on the tarmac for longer than usual but our baggage handlers said Duke was fine when he was loaded onto the aircraft.”
Newman started a petition on Change.org calling for Qantas to review its policies and procedures regarding pet travel.
“Qantas investigated Duke’s death and have told me they accept no liability for what happened,” she wrote in the description of the petition.
“Their response is that they followed standard animal handling procedures and then continued with their standard statement on ‘snub nosed’ breeds being at higher risk when flying.”
“Qantas, Duke died because you neglected your duty of care and left him out in the heat for so long, he became overheated,” she wrote. “I know I can’t bring Duke back, but I want to make sure no-one else loses their beloved pet this way.”
The petition has more than 43,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
Duke’s accident came just days before another dog died while on a Qantas flight from Sydney to Melbourne.
Anthony Balletta told The Daily Mail that his bulldog, Frank, died while travelling in a crate in the plane’s cargo hold during a flight home on December 21, 2019. The dog was just shy of his first birthday.
“I dropped to the floor, they had to carry me out of the airport,” Balletta told the outlet.
According to the Mail, Qantas refunded Balletta the $1,100 (R15,000) cost to transport Frank, and acknowledged that the situation was “very distressing.”
But a spokesperson for Qantas told news.com.au that a review of the incident found Frank had not been mishandled.
“An investigation found there were no issues on-board the aircraft or during the journey with all procedures followed.”
Balletta told the Mail that Qantas should not accept snub-nosed breed dogs and should alert pet-owners of the risks associated with airline transport.
Qantas did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Airline limitations for breeds like Duke
According to the Qantas website, snub-nosed breeds are not permitted on flights longer than 5 hours. The dogs are also required to travel in an approved crate that is twice the usual required size, for increased air flow and comfort.
Pet owners can bring snub-nosed dogs on long-haul international flights if they sign a Form of Acknowledgement and Indemnity, which declares that the pet owners are responsible to determine whether their animal is suitable to travel.
Qantas does mention on its pet travel FAQs website that weather can impact pet travel.
“While we do all we can to provide shelter and comfort for animals travelling with us, the tarmac and areas around the aircraft aren’t covered and are exposed to weather,” it writes.
“We do not recommend transporting pets during extreme weather … If at any stage of the planned journey the temperature is forecast to be above 35 degrees Celsius or below 5 degrees Celsius carefully consider the need to transport your pet by air.”