As Delta prepares to make a fuller announcement about its new pet travel program and partnership with Carepod, it may need to evaluate and make changes to its broader business culture. On a flight last Thursday, passenger Matthew Meehan boarded a flight from Atlanta to Miami and stepped in dog poop left by a golden retriever puppy who had gotten ill on the previous flight. Whether it’s a dog or a person, people get sick. Especially when traveling on a plane and the turbulence that may occur during the flight.
As Meehan told Yahoo Lifestyle, it was what happened after the puppy pooped in the plane that was a failure on multiple levels. First, while there is supposed to be a biohazardous waste kit onboard every flight, this plane didn’t have one. So, when Meehan alerts the flight crew of the dog feces underneath and surrounding his seat, he learns that the flight crew already knew about the incident. Apparently, the flight crew had reported the problem so as to have some airline staff member clean the mess up, but it never happened. So, instead of calling back to the gate to have proper sanitation materials brought on board, the flight crew gives Meehan two paper towels and a small bottle of gin to clean himself up in the airplane lavatory. Needless to say, this is woefully inadequate.
Meanwhile, the flight continues to board. When other passengers in nearby seats smell the mess of dog poop, they rightfully demand it is cleaned. A member of the flight crew cleans the area with what appears to be nothing other than paper towels. The flight crew says they checked the flight records and they believe it was either a German Shepherd or an old man. Again, the truth was that it was a golden retriever puppy. So, now because the flight is full and with the area and passengers still smelling of dog poop, Meehan is given the option of getting off the plane or retaking his seat.
After the flight, Delta Airlines refunded the cost of the flight and offered Meehan, who is a million-mile Diamond Medallion member of Delta’s SkyMiles program, 50,000 frequent flyer miles. They also said they took the plane out of service to have it completely disinfected. The most troubling sign in this ordeal, however, is the lack of accountability as the flight crew, gate staff, and airline managers all proceeded to avoid responsibility in making sure the plane was properly cleaned before take-off.
Like so many unfortunate incidents we hear about, the problem isn’t so much in the pet travel programs and policies themselves. Rather, it’s a multi-point failure to follow through on these air travel policies that create these nightmare scenarios. And that’s a function of the larger business culture.