Simon, the three-foot rabbit that died on a United Airlines flight last week, has made headlines due to his massive size and the mysterious circumstances of his death. The tragic incident is just the latest public relations disaster to hit the airline in the past few weeks.
Annette Edwards, the bunny’s British breeder, told The Sun that the rabbit had gotten a clean bill of health from a vet before boarding the plane. “I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before.”
While animal deaths on airplanes are rare, they do occur. Two dozen animals died on U.S. airlines last year, according to a report from the Department of Transportation, out of the more than 500,000 furry companions that took to the skies.
While most of the deaths were dogs and cats, there was an incident with a piglet on SkyWest Airlines, which passed away two days after falling ill on a plane.
United saw the most animal deaths last year (nine), followed by Delta (five) and American Airlines (four). United also had 23 incidents that resulted in injuries to animals, bringing its total number of incidents per 10,000 animals transported to 2.1. Hawaiian Airlines had only three animal deaths last year, but its rate per 10,000 was significantly higher (3.9).
While some airlines will allow you to bring small pets on board as part of your carry-on luggage, others restrict pet passage to the cargo hold for fees that range from a nominal charge to more than $500. Some airlines don’t allow any pets onboard at all.