As if the public relations disaster for United Airlines couldn’t get any worse, the embattled carrier is investigating claims from a woman that her giant rabbit died during a trans-Atlantic flight.
According to The Associated Press, animal breeder Annette Edwards from Stoulton, United Kingdom, said her 10-month-old, three-foot-long continental rabbit named Simon was being transported on a flight from Heathrow Airport in London to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.
Before the journey to the United States, Edwards said the rabbit was checked by a veterinarian who gave the animal a clean bill of health. The rabbit was being sent to the U.S. to be sold to a celebrity client, but it died during the journey.
“Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle. Something very strange has happened and I want to know what,” Annette told The Sun. “I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before. The client who bought Simon is very famous. He’s upset.”
United Airlines officials were “saddened” by the animal’s death and have reached out to Edwards while beginning an investigation into the incident. The airline said it was examining CCTV images to see if a cause of death could be determined.
“The safety and wellbeing of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team,” a spokesperson for United Airlines said in a statement.
According to U.S. Department of Transportation, United Airlines was the second-worst carrier in terms of animal deaths and injuries last year, with nine deaths and 14 injuries for a total of 23 incidents out of the 109,149 animals transported.
The timing of the rabbit’s death also couldn’t have been worse, as United Airlines is still dealing with the backlash surrounding the viral video of a man being violently removed from a plane in April because the flight was overbooked.
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has been apologizing ever since.