There were lots of lawsuits due to mishandling of animals, and airlines treating them as "lost luggage" and not giving a damn.
Continental a few years back instituted a change and a new program, PetSafe, for pets that is really responsible. It's a good service, with climate controlled transfer vehicles and connection buildings at IAH
. They are treated as traceable cargo, can be tracked online (if you aren't flying with them), have a 24 hour animal help desk, and earn FF
miles based on dollars spent (not miles flown). I brought a cat to my Mom that way and felt very comortable with their policies and procedures.
It might have been nice for MSNBC to look for any airlines that have tried to address the issue as examples. They singled out SWA for not carrying pets, then chose UA (at random) which is just average, normal ops that have been run for years. A good reporter might have looked for an innovative carrier to see what can be done voluntarily to provide better service.
[Edited 2005-06-03 21:03:59]
Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.