Third dog dies on Qantas flight, airline suspends travel for snub-nosed breeds

A Qantas aircraft.
A Qantas aircraft. Photo credit: Getty

An Australian family's beloved pet has become the third dog to die on a Qantas flight in the last month. 

Nahla, a Shar Pei, French Mastiff and British Bulldog cross, died during a four-hour flight from Darwin to Brisbane on Thursday. She was due to land just hours before the family, who have relocated from Northern Territory to Queensland.

Heartbroken dad Mathew Taurima says he is struggling to give his young children answers as the family settles in their new home without their "forever dog".

"It went wrong, as wrong as could be! We received the phone call informing us that Nahla had passed... approximately six hours before we were due to fly," Taurima wrote in a Facebook post detailing his story on Saturday.

"We arrived at Brisbane Airport and immediately went to say our goodbyes. The girls were crying the entire flight. We got there and as you can imagine, it was an emotional time."

Taurima had arranged for an external dog-handling company to organise Nahla's travel with Qantas, and had signed a waiver acknowledging that snub-nosed breeds are susceptible to respiratory problems. 

He says a vet gave their approval for Nahla to travel only a week before her death.

"We took her to the vet to get her certificate so that she could fly, which was required. We also quizzed the vet because we weren't sure about her flying and she said that airlines do it all the time, they are professionals, she will be fine."

Taurima says their only communication with Qantas has been via the external dog-handling business, labelling the airline "negligent".

Two other snub-nosed dogs have died on Qantas flights within the last month, including a six-year-old boxer, reportedly left on the tarmac in extreme heat, and a one-year-old bulldog which died during a flight from Sydney to Melbourne. 

"Statistically, one out of 20,000 dogs die while being transported by air and in the beginning I took Nahla's death as a terrible accident... but three deaths in the space of a month-ish surely means Qantas have a problem with their processes and [it's] taken three deaths to act," Taurima wrote.

Qantas has since released a statement to local media saying the airline's freight is suspending the travel of snub-nosed breeds for two weeks as it prepares to implement policy changes regarding its transportation of the dogs. 

According to 10 Daily, Qantas said: "The airline is working with the RSPCA and other animal experts to finalise the additional measures, which include:

  • Requiring all snub-nosed dogs to be cleared to fly by a registered vet immediately prior to travel
  • Strongly recommending customers to use registered animal shipping companies, who have vets based at major capital city airports
  • A longer term review of airport equipment to provide further tarmac protection for vulnerable breeds in extreme weather, and
  • Reinforcing existing procedures designed to minimise the time animals are required to spend on the tarmac prior to being loaded."

The changes will solely apply to snub-nosed dogs.

Qantas told the outlet it has an existing policy recommending snub-nosed dogs only travel at temperatures below 20C. In extreme heat, owners are permitted to reschedule their pet's transportation.

It's known that snub-nosed breeds are prone to respiratory issues and breathing problems, making them "high-risk flyers" - particularly in hot weather.

"We consulted a registered animal shipping company as you recommend but at the end of the day [the airline is] ultimately in charge of the animals during flight, [it's] your responsibility," Tuarima wrote.

"A member of our family was entrusted to you on Thursday... my family is devastated. 

"We love you girl and Dad's sorry."

On Sunday, Taurima confirmed to 10 Daily that the airline has yet to directly contact the family.