A U.S. senator has asked United Airlines to explain its high rate of animal deaths, deepening the carrier’s latest public relations crisis over a dog that perished in an overhead bin.

Eighteen of the 24 animals that died on a major U.S. airline last year were in United’s care, Louisiana Republican John Kennedy wrote in a letter to United President Scott Kirby on Wednesday. By comparison, Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. each reported two deaths, the senator said.

“This pattern of animal deaths and injuries is simply inexcusable,” Kennedy wrote. “For many people, pets are members of the family. They should not be treated like insignificant cargo.”

United Continental Holdings Inc. on Wednesday was coping with a second day of fallout from a Monday night incident aboard Flight 1284 from Houston to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. A small dog in a pet carrier died after being placed in the jet’s overhead bins.

While the dog’s owner alerted a United flight attendant that a dog was inside the crate, the flight attendant “did not hear or understand her, and did not knowingly place the dog in the overhead bin,” United said in a statement Wednesday.

The company didn’t have an immediate response to Kennedy’s letter. Earlier Wednesday, spokesman Charlie Hobart said of the controversy, “We’re not making excuses. Anytime an animal suffers an injury or dies in our care, we are devastated.”


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Photo Credit: United Airlines is dealing with the fallout of the death of a dog that was placed in an overhead bin on one of its flights. Bloomberg