From a PR perspective, it’s hard to think of a company that’s having a worse year than United. First, there was the leggings controversy when two young women were forced to change their clothes to be able to board a United flight. Then, most egregiously, the company had Chicago police officers drag a paid passenger off of a flight to make room for a crew member. Soon after, a scorpion showed up on a United flight, stinging a passenger. And now, a famous rabbit is dead.
Ten-month-old, three-foot-long Simon was on track to become the largest rabbit in the world, just like his dad, Darius, the previous title holder at 4’4”. Simon’s breeder, Annette Edwards, was sending Simon from England to Chicago to live with a new, “very famous” owner. Although a checkup the bunny had three hours before the flight showed that he was “fit as a fiddle,” he did not survive the flight to Chicago in United’s cargo hold. Newser reports that Edwards told the Sun, “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 an emailed statement from United’s presumably overworked communications team, the company offered its condolences: “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.”
The BBC reports that animal deaths in cargo holds, unsurprisingly, have happened before: According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, 35 animals died in the course of air transport in 2015. But the BBC points out that “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,” the highest rate for any U.S. airline.