For United Airlines, the past month has been a crash course in what not to do when it comes to customer service, crisis response, and media messaging. United Airlines first got flak for barring two minors from flying because they chose to wear leggings. Two weeks later, United insisted that seated passengers on a plane bound for Louisville vacate their spots for United personnel. This resulted in a passenger being physically abused — Kentucky physician David Dao was violently dragged off the flight against his will. The disturbing scene was captured on tape, and the infamous video later went viral. Then, just days later, a scorpion reportedly stung a passenger on a separate plane. And now, it seems a giant rabbit died on a United transatlantic flight from London to Chicago.
The 3-foot-long male rabbit was named Simon, and was just 10 months old. He'd been apparently purchased by a celebrity from breeder Annette Edwards, who claimed Simon had been cleared as healthy and ready to fly by the veterinarian; "He was fit as a fiddle," she said to the Associated Press.
He was flying on the PetSafe program, United Airlines' service for traveling animals. In a released statement, United Airlines said, "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."
Many readers may not know just how big certain rabbit breeds can get (guilty). Simon was apparently a continental giant, a breed that can weigh up to and beyond 35 lbs. There are even owners of these massive bunnies who claim they are ideal "house rabbits." (Having grown up with several mini lop-ears myself, the idea of any rabbit living inside a house is a deeply puzzling notion, but I digress...)
In 2015, United Airlines transported more than 100,000 animals. Fourteen animals died on a United flight during that year, of 35 animal deaths for all airlines.
Rabbits have been known to die from fright, and an airplane ride is certainly a frightening thing for any animal. As of now, the cause of Simon's death remains unknown.
Simon was projected to be the biggest rabbit in the world, surpassing the gargantuan size of his father (who measured in at over four feet long).
Edwards is understandably upset by Simon's death, and expressed a similar sentiment from his new owner. "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," she told U.K. newspaper The Sun. "The client who bought Simon is very famous. He's upset."