One dead dog in an overhead bin later, why have airlines turned into cruel, vicious despots?

I was going to apologize for actually using the real photo of the real dead dog, but I guess my apology would be insincere since I didn’t get rid of it.

No. I’m not sorry I used it. I’m sorry it exists, but sort of like yesterday’s Stephen Hawking post, I think we weaken ourselves when we won’t look ugly things in the face. The poor dog is dead because United Airlines is a soulless, vicious assemblage of vindictive sadists. They’re really not all that different from the other airlines, although they do seem to provide us with the most blatant and public examples.

How did we come to the point where airlines could do something like this, and we’re not even all that surprised?

A dog died on a United Airlines plane after a flight attendant ordered its owner to put the animal in the plane’s overhead bin.

United said Tuesday that it took full responsibility for the incident on the Monday night flight from Houston to New York.

In a statement, United called it “a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin.”

The dog was in a small pet carrier designed to fit under an airline seat.

Passengers reported that they heard barking during the flight and didn’t know that the dog had died until the plane landed at LaGuardia Airport.

Passenger Maggie Gremminger posted a photo on Twitter of the dog’s owner and children after the flight. “I want to help this woman and her daughter. They lost their dog because of an @united flight attendant. My heart is broken,” she wrote.

United spokesman Charles Hobart said the flight attendant told the dog’s owner to put the pet carrier in the overhead bin because the bag was partly obstructing the aisle. It is unclear why the carrier was not placed under a seat, he said.

Hobart said United is investigating the incident and talking to the flight attendant, whom he declined to identify. He said the airline refunded the tickets purchased for the dog owner and her two children and the fee that they paid to bring a pet on board – typically $200.

It’s easy to lay it at the hands of the flight attendant who ordered the dog stashed in the overhead bin, where anyone should have known he would have no oxygen. But something that egregious doesn’t happen without anyone saying a word . . . unless it’s considered par for the course in the context of what’s happening around you.

Everyone who flies – and I avoid it as often as I can – knows what it’s like. You’re cattle. You’re herded, squeezed in, trapped, restricted and completely at their arbitrary mercy – not that any is on offer.

You can pay for a seat and it doesn’t mean you get a seat. You can be in the seat you paid for, and this can happen to you:

How does any of this happen?

The supply-and-demand answer would be that customers simply have nowhere else to go, and the airlines know it. It’s not profitable to make flying a pleasant experience, and it’s also not necessary because people who need to fly have no choice but to put up with the indignities.

There are not that many airlines still operating, and probably only a handful who actually fly from your location to your destination on the day you need to go. You can shop around in theory, but in practice you’re pretty well stuck with who’s going when you need to go.

So you’ll squeeze into the tiny seat, pull your legs close, hold your bursting bladder for three hours, pay $8 for a bottle of water . . . and prepare to bury your dog. That’s assuming they don’t kick you off the flight because they oversold it and drew the short straw.

The person who believes in no morality apart from the cold logic of the market considers the mystery solved.

What God says is that we’re to love our neighbors just because they’re our neighbors, which would suggest a certain minimum of humanity should be present in the experience of flying regardless of the economics involved. That would be the case if, consistent with Christ’s perspective, people valued each other simply because they are people and for no other reason.

I don’t think we’ve been there as a culture for a while now. Most businesses still treat their customers with at least a modicum of respect, both because they can’t afford not to and – I hope in as many cases as possible – because they are run by decent people who want to and are happy to.

The airlines are clearly run by people who have no problem inflicting pain and distress on people if it’s squeezes a few more dollars out of them, and would explain that this is necessary for them to maximize shareholder value.

So how do I square my appeal to the Christian ethic with my belief in free-market economics? By pointing out that the airline industry is not profitable and never has been.

See? Everything works. Although it will work better for you, your family and certainly your pets if you take the car.

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Powers and Principalities (2009): Twenty years ago, Clay Bender saw the face of spiritual evil with the naked eye while attending a party. Now, Clay’s terrifying spiritual gift returns, showing him that a supernatural threat is looming – one that could threaten everyone in Royal Oak. As the community grapples with bizarre electrical disturbances and a horrible train derailment, only Clay can recognize the true nature of the strange events, and he and his two closest friends have little time to battle the city’s demons – even as all three are forced to face their own. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)

Pharmakeia (2010): Kyla Spears is being warned – in terrifying dreams – of grisly and violent tragedies looming for young people in Royal Oak. But her spiritually gifted friend Clay Bender is reluctant to help, and her feelings for one charming young man threaten her newfound spiritual integrity and her ability to face the truth about what’s really behind the threat. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)


Dark Matter (2011): The miraculous resurrection of a young man is caught on video and broadcast to the nation, bringing the spotlight to Murphy Soles and a group of people who claim to be able to heal using a mysterious spiritual force they call the Dark Matter.  But Clay Bender can see that the phenomenon is demonic, and he is forced to race against time and battle his best friend to expose the deception and save the lives of thousands. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)

Backstop (2017): Darius Wilson’s preacher father has always envisioned his son as his successor in the pulpit. Darius has another passion, though – baseball. And when the Detroit Tigers draft him, Darius defies his father and heads to Lakeland, Florida to pursue his dream. But what Darius has learned since childhood about the spiritual forces of evil comes into play when he realizes that Lakeland is home to a very dark presence. And without his father’s help, Darius may not have what it takes to fend off a threat that could bring tragedy to the entire Tigers organization. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)