The string of recent bad publicity for United Airlines continues this week with a report that’s been picked up by several consumer media outlets of the death of a giant bunny onboard a flight from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare.
The Sun reports that Simon, a three-foot-long bunny, was found dead in the cargo section of a Boeing 767 after the plane arrived in O’Hare.
Simon’s breeder, Annette Edwards, told the Sun that “Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle.”
According to the Miami Herald, Simon was a Continental Giant rabbit and was expected to grow to become the world’s largest rabbit had he lived. Simon was the son of Darius, the current world’s largest rabbit.
United Airlines told the BBC, “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.”
While animals dying on planes is not unheard of – U.S. Department of Transportation statistics cited by the BBC show that 35 animals died on U.S. airlines in 2015 – the incident comes at a delicate time for United’s public image.
Earlier this month a viral Facebook video of a passenger being dragged from an overbooked United plane prompted outrage and calls for reforms regarding passenger rights. That incident itself followed an earlier social media scuffle in which the airline faced criticism after it denied boarding to two young girls traveling on discounted non-revenue tickets, because they were wearing leggings that did not conform to the employee dress code.
United has promised that it will conduct a review of the actions that led to Monday’s incident and communicate the results by April 30. In the latest statement on its website, the airline committed to not asking law enforcement officers to remove passengers from flights unless it is a matter of safety and security. The airline said it has started a review of its policies governing crew movement, incentivizing volunteers on overbooked flights, how the airline handles overbooked flights and how it works with airport authorities and local law enforcement.