More Woes for Troubled United Airlines

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First the forcible removal of a doctor, now the death of a famous giant rabbit – another PR disaster for United.

  • Enormous 10-month-old rabbit measuring three-foot-long mysteriously dies on United Airlines flight
  • Destined to be world’s largest rabbit
  • New celebrity owner upset
  • United has most animal deaths of all US airlines
  • Likely legal action against United

United Airlines is facing another PR nightmare after a valuable rabbit mysteriously died on a flight from London to the US. It was on its way to a new celebrity owner but was found dead in the cargo hold on arrival.

Simon, a Continental Giant rabbit, already measured three-foot long at just 10 months old. British breeder Annette Edwards said it was bred to overtake its father as the world’s biggest rabbit.

According to Edwards, 65, Simon was healthy when it was placed on the United flight at London’s Heathrow airport.

“Something very strange has happened and I want to know what.

“Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle. I’ve sent rabbits around the world before and nothing like this happened.

“The client who bought Simon is very famous. He’s upset.” Edwards said.

The prized pet had been stored in the cargo section of the Boeing 767, which was where United crew members found its lifeless body upon landing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport – the same airport the infamous David Dao incident happened.

United Airlines normally allows rabbits to travel in the cabin with their owners during domestic flights in the US but not while flying internationally.

Animals dying on planes is rare but not unheard of. US Department of Transportation figures show that in 2015, the most recent data available, US airlines reported 35 animal deaths.

What’s revealing is, of those, 14 deaths were on United flights, with a further nine creatures injured. Across the year, United carried 97,156 animals, meaning there were 2.37 incidents for every 10,000 animals transported during the period. That was the highest rate seen on any US airline, according to the data.

United, which has had a torrid few weeks of bad publicity, said in a statement: “We are 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 the customer and have offered assistance. We are reviewing this matter,”

Edwards is a former Playboy model-turned-rabbit owner who reportedly hires out her rabbits at £500 a time. She also owns the world’s largest rabbit – Darius, Simon’s father. Darius is the current record holder at 4 feet, 4 inches. Simon was expected to outgrow his father.

Continental Giant rabbits can live to be seven years old. It can cost more than $6,000 per year to care for and feed one of these rabbits.

Following the incident, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Ingrid Newkirk issued a statement concerning Simon’s death.

“This rabbit was failed first by the breeder – who churns out and sells baby bunnies when animal shelters and rescue groups are full of homeless rabbits – and then by United Airlines, which shipped him off in a cargo hold like an old suitcase.”

United Airlines is still reeling from the worldwide backlash of the David Dao incident, where legal action has been filed against it. It is now under fire again for the rabbit mishap on the trans-Atlantic flight and could face another legal action.

Related report: Apr 14, United Airlines Passenger Suffered Concussion, Broken Nose