In the latest controversy to plague United Airlines, a giant rabbit being transported on one of its planes died in the cargo hold while traveling on a flight from London’s Heathrow airport to Chicago’s O’Hare — the same airport where a United passenger was violently dragged off of an overbooked flight earlier this month.
Multiple media reports out of the UK say the 10 month-old giant rabbit was being delivered to a new “celebrity” owner. According to The Sun newspaper, the animal, named Simon, was the son of the world’s largest rabbit — a 1.3m-long continental giant rabbit called Darius — and was expected to have grown larger than his father.
Owner Annette Edwards, and former Playboy model, told the paper: “Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle.”
“Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before.”
In a statement provided to the BBC, United said: “We were saddened to hear this news. The safety and well-being of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team. We have been in contact with our customer and have offered assistance. We are reviewing this matter.”
As the BBC reports, animals dying while being transported on planes is rare but not unheard of. U.S, Department of Transportation figures show that in 2015, the most recent data available, US airlines reported 35 animal deaths. Of those deaths, a whopping 14 were on United flights.
United has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past two months.
The forcible removal of passenger Dr. David Dao from an overbooked flight caused outrage and widespread condemnation after footage of the incident was shared online. He lost two front teeth and suffered a broken nose.
In late March, the airline was heavily criticized on social media after two girls were reportedly barred from flying for wearing leggings on a flight from Denver to Minneapolis. United defended its actions, saying the passengers were traveling on a employee and guest pass, which enforces a dress code.