United Airlines faces another controversy after the death on one of its flights of a rabbit that was reportedly expected to become the largest in the world.
The 10-month-old rabbit, Simon, was on his way to a new owner identified as a "very famous" celebrity, but was found dead in the cargo hold when the plane arrived in Chicago's O'Hare airport from London, BBC reports.
Simon was the son of the world's current largest rabbit, Darius, a Continental Giant who is over 4 feet long. Simon, almost 3 feet long at the time of his death, was expected to grow even larger than his father.
Breeder Annette Edwards said that Simon had been in good health before the flight.
"Simon had a vet's check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle," said Edwards.
"Something very strange has happened and I want to know what," she added. "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," said Edwards, according to the Sun.
Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that in 2015, airlines in the U.S. experienced 35 reported animal deaths. United reportedly had the highest rates of animals dying on their flights, with 14 deaths that year.
"We were saddened to hear this news," said the airline in a statement. "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," United added.
United has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent weeks, the most notorious of which was an incident involving Dr. David Dao, who suffered a broken nose and lost two teeth after he refused to give up his seat on an overbooked flight.
In a video that sparked outrage online, Dao was dragged from the flight. Public outcry after the incident led United to review its policies on overbooked flights.
In March, the airline was also criticized for not allowing two girls to wear leggings on a flight. According to United, the girls were traveling on a special pass for employees and their guests which had dress code requirements.
A source reportedly said that the rabbit's death led to panic among United staff, who the source said did not want to be held responsible for Simon's death.
"After the viral video, no one wanted responsibility for killing what was to be the world’s biggest rabbit," said the source.