Qantas Apologises After Dog Dies In Its Care

A dog left out on the tarmac in full sun during a recent heatwave in Australia has died. Duke, a boxer who normally resides with his human mum, Kay, in Sydney, was being transported on a Qantas flight from Sydney to Brisbane when he was left outside for a time in 40° plus heat. It did not end well.

Qantas has apologised after a dog it was transporting died. Photo: Getty Images.

Dog left out on hot tarmac for extended period of time

According to a report in 9News, Duke was Brisbane bound on 19 December 2019. Temperatures were hovering in the high thirties but out on the tarmac at Sydney Airport, it would have been hotter. 

Duke’s human mum, Kay Newman, stayed with Duke until he was taken out in his crate to be loaded onto the plane. Qantas said it always loads animals last and offloads them first and that Duke would not be outside for more than a few minutes.

If you know me personally or just follow me on social media, you will know Duke and how much he means to me. On Thursday 19 December 2019, during or prior to a Qantas flight from Sydney to Brisbane, my beautiful boy died. December 19 was a hot day. The forecast for the day was 34C but it reached 39C (102.2F), probably a lot hotter out on the airport tarmac. Duke and I were flying with Qantas from Sydney to Brisbane. I was worried about the heat but was told by Qantas freight staff that Duke would only be kept on the tarmac for a few minutes, and that he would be kept under cover until they were ready to put him on the plane. All animals are meant to be boarded last (last on first off). Nevertheless, I requested and was given permission to wait with Duke in the air-conditioned office until the last possible minute before he was placed in his crate for the flight.The staff at the freight office were great and when the time came to put Duke into the crate, they patiently waited while I did everything I could to ensure he would be kept cool. I used two bottles of ice water to soak Duke down as well as a towel for him to lay on, and filled up the water bowl. I kept the third bottle completely frozen and placed that in the crate with him. That should have been enough to keep him cool for the time it would take to load him onto the plane. When travelling (by plane) with Duke, I always stand at the window near the boarding gates and watch him get loaded onto the plane before I board. When I arrived at the boarding gates, I could see Duke's crate already on the tarmac. I’m not sure how long he’d already been there but as I watched, five, ten, fifteen minutes passed, and he was still out there, in the crate, in that heat. I alerted Qantas staff of my concerns over Duke being out in the heat, but I was assured that he was fine and would be loaded shortly. I kept waiting at the window as passengers started to board. I became extremely distressed and started to cry as I once again told Qantas staff of my concerns about Duke being out in the heat all this time and explained that Boxers don't tolerate heat very well. I was told that I needed to board as I was the last passenger and that Duke would now be loaded and that the cargo hold is air conditioned so he will be fine. As I entered the plain the flight attendant saw that I was crying and asked if I was ok. I was so upset that she notified the captain. He apparently phoned down to the ground crew to check on Duke. A message came back saying he was fine.But he wasn’t fine. When I landed in Brisbane, I went to the freight office to collect Duke. When I arrived I was asked if I was Kay Newman, when I said yes I was asked to come through to the back of the office, that’s not normal and I knew in my heart something was wrong, I started screaming what’s wrong, what’s happened!! Then I heard the words I never wanted to hear, “We have some bad news, I’m sorry but your dog didn’t survive the flight and has passed away”. I was beside myself, all I could do was scream no, no, no. I demanded to see Duke because I didn’t want to believe what was happening. Duke was still in the crate and when I reached in and put my arms around him, I knew immediately why he died because the heat coming from the underside of his body, and the bottom of his crate was immense. My poor boy suffered a terrible death because he was left out on the tarmac by Qantas baggage handlers, in the searing heat whilst they loaded all the passenger’s luggage and post parcels. His death was 100% preventable. Qantas staff did not exercise their duty of care or use any common sense. Instead they treated Duke as though he was nothing but luggage and as a result he suffered an unimaginable death.Shame on you Qantas!! Why did your baggage handlers leave an innocent animal out in that terrible heat for such a long time? Why, when the flight was delayed, didn’t any of your staff think to move Duke back indoors to where he could be kept cool until it was time to board? Why were my concerns about Duke ignored on numerous occasions? And why was I told my dog was fine when he obviously wasn’t? At the very least you need to reassess your current guidelines in relation to the care of animals and make sure protocols are put in place to ensure this never happens again. This is not an isolated incident, there are others who have lost their beloved pets at the hands of Qantas and it needs to stop! It has been 3 weeks since the death of Duke and despite constant calls by me to Qantas I’m still waiting to receive details of the investigation into Duke’s death. First I was told the investigation is still in progress, then I was told someone would call me with details, next I was told I’d receive a letter by email with the investigation details, when that didn’t turn up I was told the investigation was with the claims department, and now I’ve been informed the email will be sent by the end of this week or early next week. Not good enough!I am posting this as a dedication to the life of Duke (Dukey Boy) and as a warning to those of you who may be travelling by plane with your pets in the future.I am blessed and so grateful to have been Duke's mum for the past six and half years. Duke was amazing. He was smart, funny, a little bit quirky, his favourite things were walks and swimming and of course his stuffed elephant (seen in this video) which he had his entire life, he was beautiful inside and out, he loved everyone he met and was loved by all who met him. Words can't describe how much I miss Duke or how devastated I and my family are over his death. He didn’t deserve to suffer the way he did. The Qantas staff who neglected to care for Duke on that day should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. Rest in peace my beautiful Dukey Boy xx.

Posted by Kay Newman on Thursday, 9 January 2020

But Ms. Newman could see Duke in his crate on the tarmac and she reckons he was out there for at least fifteen minutes. A flight attendant had the captain contact the ground crew who checked on Duke. A message came back that he was fine.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. It is only a sixty-minute flight up to Brisbane but when Ms. Newman touched down, she was told Duke had died.

“I heard the words I never wanted to hear, ‘We have some bad news, I’m sorry but your dog didn’t survive the flight and has passed away.

“All I could do was scream no, no, no. I demanded to see Duke because I didn’t want to believe what was happening.

“Duke was still in the crate and when I reached in and put my arms around him, I knew immediately why he died because the heat coming from the underside of his body, and the bottom of his crate was immense.”

Apologies from Qantas

Qantas has since apologized to Ms. Newman. In a statement, a Qantas spokesperson said;

“We have expressed our sympathies to Kay about the passing of her dog, Duke.

“There was an unexpected delay with the flight which meant he was on the tarmac for longer than usual but our baggage handlers said Duke was fine when he was loaded onto the aircraft.”

Kay Burton and Duke in happier times. Photo: Facebook.

Qantas makes the point that breeds such as boxers are particularly susceptible to heat stress and asks owners to sign waivers if such breeds are going to be transported for extended periods. Ms. Newman disputes that boxers are any more vulnerable than other dogs. His death was preventable, she said, and the airline prioritized luggage and cargo over her dog.

Not the only dog that died

Duke’s death happened days after another dog died while being transported on Qantas. Frank, a bulldog owned by Anthony Balletta, died while traveling from Sydney to Melbourne. Mr. Balletta had said;

“I never thought I could love someone as much as I loved Frank. He came into work with me every day, he used to make everyone smile.”

Unlike countries such as the United States, Australia is quite strict about allowing animals into cabins. Support animals or animals masquerading as such don’t get a look in – they travel like Duke and Frank in a crate in the cargo hold. The only exceptions are bona fide service animals such as guide dogs.

But the incident does suggest that more thought could be put into handling animals during extreme weather days.