In the midst of moving from Oregon to Wichita, Kara Swindle says her family pet was mistakenly flown to Japan due to a United Airlines mix-up.
Swindle, along with her two children and grandmother, booked a United Airlines flight from Portland to Kansas City that landed on Tuesday.
Her family's German shepherd, named Irgo, had to fly in cargo on a different flight because he was too big — he's 10 years old and weighs about 80 pounds. Irgo was scheduled to land in Kansas City just before Swindle, she said.
But when Swindle and her family landed in Kansas City and went to pick up Irgo from the airline kennels, she discovered that a Great Dane was sitting in the kennel labeled with Irgo's paperwork.
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"We went to cargo to pick him up where the kennels are and out pops a Great Dane when we call his name," Swindle said. "We burst into tears seeing this is not my dog."
She later discovered that Irgo was on a flight to Japan, replacing the Great Dane who was actually scheduled to fly internationally.
"They have no idea how it happened, is what (United Airlines) is telling us right now," Swindle said. "They are keeping quiet until they know more."
Because Irgo was on an international flight, Swindle said she was originally told Irgo may have to be quarantined in Japan for two weeks. The airline paid for Swindle and her family to stay in a Kansas City hotel Tuesday night while the mix-up was sorted out.
The airline is providing Swindle updates as it receives more information, she said.
"It's been a nightmare," she said.
But at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the airline told Swindle that Irgo had made it to Japan and sent her photos to prove it, she said. Swindle was also told that the airline had Irgo get checked by a veterinarian.
Swindle said she was also told that United Airlines will be flying Irgo to Wichita Eisenhower National Airport on Thursday.
"Hopefully tomorrow night he'll be in Wichita," she said. His flight from Japan to Wichita is about 16.5 hours, she said.
"It's a long flight, especially for an older dog, she said. "I can't imagine what he's thinking ... we're all stressed right now."
United Airlines issued the following statement regarding the incident:
"An error occurred during connections in Denver for two pets sent to the wrong destinations. We have notified our customers that their pets have arrived safely and will arrange to return the pets to them as soon as possible. We apologize for this mistake and are following up with the vendor kennel where they were kept overnight to understand what happened."
Swindle said she plans to pursue legal action against the airline.
"This is not the first time something like this has happened," Swindle said. "But I'm hoping this will be the last if we have anything to do with it."
Earlier this week, a dog died while on a United Airlines flight after a flight attendant "insisted" a woman place her dog in the overhead bin, passengers said.
But before Swindle takes any legal action, she said she plans to do something special for Irgo after he returns from his long journey to Japan — she's just not sure how she'll do that yet.