United Airlines in fresh PR nightmare after rabbit set to be world’s biggest dies on flight
United Airlines is battling another PR nightmare after a rabbit destined to be the world’s biggest died on a flight from Britain to the US.
The airline, which recently triggered a worldwide backlash after a passenger was forcibly removed from one of its flights, could now face legal action after the death of a valuable rabbit in the cargo section of a Boeing 767 from Heathrow to Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport.
Measuring three-feet, Simon was expected to outgrow his father Darius, whose length of 4ft 4in made him the world's biggest bunny.
The 10-month-old continental giant rabbit was reportedly being sent to his new celebrity owner, whose identity hasn’t been revealed.
"Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle," breeder Annette Edwards, of Stoulton, Worcs, 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."
The animal was found dead when it arrived at O’Hare, the airport where passenger Dr David Dao was dragged off a United flight earlier this month.
"We were saddened to hear this news," a United Airlines spokeswoman said, according to the Mirror.
"The safety and wellbeing 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."
Ms Edwards, a former glamour model whose rabbits are said to be hired out at €570 a time, and the new owner in the US are considering legal action, the Sun reported.
Darius, the Guinness World Record holder for world’s biggest rabbit, weighs three-and-a-half stone and costs his owner about €2,800 per year in food alone.
His mother Alice held the record before him and Simon was expected to continue the family tradition.
The most recent figures from the US Department of Transportation - dating from 2015 but released this February - show 35 animal deaths occurred during transit across 17 carriers in the States.
United accounted for 14 animal deaths in that period with a further nine reported injured among the nearly 100,000 animals carried by the company.
United Airlines is still trying to tackle the public relations disaster caused by Dr Dao’s removal from a Chicago to Louisville flight on April 9.
Video recorded by other passengers showed the 69-year-old doctor being dragged down the aisle with blood on his face after refusing to give up his seat. The carrier has since apologised several times.