CHICAGO (CBS) — United Airlines said it is investigating the death of a giant rabbit shortly after it arrived a flight from London to O’Hare, dealing another public relations blow to the company.
A 3-foot long giant rabbit named Simon was alive and showed no signs of distress when the flight from London landed at O’Hare International Airport. However, it died at a pet holding facility at the airport.
“We won’t know the cause of death because we offered to perform a necropsy free of charge — that’s standard procedure — but the customer didn’t want us to perform a necropsy, and we understand,” United Airlines spokesman Charles Hobart said.
The Associated Press reports breeder Annette Edwards took the 10-month-old continental rabbit to a veterinarian for a checkup shortly before the flight.
“Simon had his vet check just before getting on the plane,” she told the AP. “He was fit as a fiddle.”
Edwards said the rabbit had been purchased by a celebrity. Simon was the son of 4-foot 3-inch rabbit Darius, the world’s largest bunny.
“We were saddened to hear this news. 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,” United said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Hobart said the airline offered compensation to Edwards, but would not disclose the amount.
Simon’s death comes on the heels of a public relations fiasco for United Airlines, when Dr. David Dao was dragged off a flight at O’Hare after refusing to give up his seat for airline employees that needed to get on the already full plane. The crew had tried to find four passengers willing to give up their seats to allow four United employees to get on the flight, but no one volunteered, despite United’s offers of up to $800.
Dao suffered a concussion and a broken nose, and lost two teeth when Chicago Department of Aviation security officers pulled him out of his seat and dragged him down the aisle after the airline requested help removing him from the plane.
United CEO Oscar Munoz apologized three days later, after first blaming Dao for being “disruptive and belligerent” when he was told he would have to leave the plane.
The airline has since promised not to remove paid passengers who refuse to give up their seats voluntarily based on financial incentives.
(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)