CINCINNATI — United Airlines has had an in-flight incident with a four-legged flier.
On Thursday, United Flight 3996 from Newark to St. Louis was diverted after the airline found out a dog was accidentally aboard the plane.
The dog, which was supposed to fly to Akron, Ohio, was loaded onto the St. Louis flight in error, airline spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin told CNN on Saturday.
In order to bring the pup to its destination, the flight diverted near Columbus and landed about two hours northeast at the Akron-Canton Airport, where the dog was dropped off and eventually reunited with its owners.
The diversion ended up turning what would have been a two-hour flight into a four-hour marathon for passengers, who were compensated for the delay, Schmerin told CNN.
The dog-related incident isn't the airline's first, or even second, this week.
On Monday, a French bulldog puppy suffocated to death on a three-hour flight from Houston to New York after a United flight attendant insisted the owner stow the dog, which was in a TSA-compliant pet carrier, in an overhead bin.
Schmerin told USA TODAY that United assumed "full responsibility for this tragedy," and that pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. The airline is "thoroughly investigating" the incident to prevent it from happening again, she said.
Then, on Tuesday, a family moving from Oregon to Kansas was sent into a frenzy after being greeted by a Great Dane instead of their 10-year-old German Shepherd, Irgo, at the Kansas City airport. They then discovered their dog was sent to Japan, where the Great Dane was headed, after a mix-up during connecting flights in Denver.
"Somehow, in-between going from Denver to Kansas City the two dogs got switched. Not exactly sure how, they aren’t sure how either," the dog's owner, Kara Swindle, told the Salem Statesman Journal.
After being separated from their dog for nearly four days, the family was reunited Thursday with Irgo, who traveled back to the Wichita airport by private charter.
According to statistics from the Transportation Department, 506,994 animals were transported last year, including 24 that died, 15 that were injured and one that was lost.
United has been criticized because 18 of those deaths happened on its flights. The airline has had the highest number of deaths in each of the last five years, with nine of 26 in 2016; 14 of 35 in 2015; five of 17 in 2014; and nine of 21 in 2013, according to the department’s Air Travel Consumer Reports.
Bart Jansen and Ben Mutzabaugh of USA TODAY contributed to this report.