IOWA, U.S. - Following a string of incidents that brought bad press for the troubled United Airlines, the death of a giant rabbit onboard one of its flights caused more worries earlier last month.
Reports had noted then that the ten-month-old, 90 cm-long rabbit called Simon was found dead in the cargo hold when the flight arrived at Chicago's O'Hare airport from London Heathrow.
The bunny was reportedly being delivered to a new ‘celebrity’ owner.
The airline had expressed its apologies on Simon’s death in a statement, however lawyers of the rabbit’s owners have pointed out that United hasn’t explained why the rabbit died or why it had the animal cremated within hours of his death.
Announcing possible legal action, Des Moines Attorney Guy Cook, representing an Iowa group that bought the continental giant rabbit, said his clients want details about Simon's death and an explanation of why he was cremated before a necropsy, or post-mortem examination, could be conducted.
Cook said in his statement that he had sent a letter to United on May 4 but hasn't received a reply.
He just received a confirmation that the matter had been referred to the airline's lawyers.
He raised larger questions about how the airline treats the animals it transports and said, “United has taken no action to rectify this. This case is about more than one rabbit."
United spokesman Charles Hobart meanwhile said the company had reached "a satisfactory resolution" with the rabbit's breeder, Annette Edwards, in Worcestershire in the United Kingdom.
Commenting on the letter from the animal's buyers, the spokesperson only said that Edwards was United's customer and that she had turned down an offer of a post-mortem examination.
Cook meanwhile said the group of Des Moines area businessmen who bought Simon had intended to display him at this summer's Iowa State fair.
He added that after winning a prize for the largest rabbit, the men intended to take Simon to other events and raise money for the fair.
According to reports, the owners are seeking the costs of buying and transporting the rabbit, which has been estimated at $2,300, along with future earnings.
Cook said that when he died, Simon was about 3½ feet long and weighed 20 pounds and that he could have grown to weigh 40 pounds.
He was likely to grow larger than his father called Darius, who was the world's biggest rabbit.
Figures released by the U.S. Department of Transportation in April showed that in 2015, U.S. airlines reported 35 animal deaths.
Incidentally, out of those tragic deaths, 14 deaths occured on United flights.
Further, nine creatures were also reportedly injured.
United Airlines reportedly carried 97,156 animals through the year and the data point out that that was the highest rate of deaths and incidents seen on any U.S. airline.
The airline was gripped with one of the biggest controversies with the emergence of the video of 69-year-old traveller, Dr David Dao being dragged out of the plane, to accommodate United employees who needed to fly to Louisville for another flight in April.
The video immediately went viral and left the airline shamefaced.
It emerged that after Dao refused a travel voucher incentive, citing his need to see patients the next morning, Chicago aviation officers dragged him from his seat, down the aisle - leaving other passengers horrified at the brutality.
Dao’s attorney Thomas Demetrio, who held a press conference subsequently, said Dao had suffered a broken nose, missing teeth, sinus injury and “significant” concussion.
He had filed a lawsuit against United and the city of Chicago in Cook County Circuit Court.
Prior to this, United faced another embarrassing incident after two teen girls were kicked off a flight for wearing leggings.
Due to the incident, the airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz had faced calls for his resignation and profusely apologized.
In another incident the same month, a couple, headed to their wedding were said to be booted from a United Airlines flight, because they changed seats without permission.