‘Much-loved’ giant rabbit found dead after United flight to O’Hare
NEW YORK — United Airlines, still trying to regain its footing more than two weeks after a video showed a police officer violently dragging a passenger off a plane, on Thursday provided its fullest account yet of the episode and announced a series of steps meant to keep such an event from happening again.
The measures include new limits on when passengers can be removed from planes and much greater financial incentives — up to $10,000 — for passengers who volunteer to change flights.
Still, the airline faces a new high-profile calamity: a giant 10-month-old rabbit — which could have grown to a record-setting size — was found dead after traveling on a United Airlines flight from the United Kingdom to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, The Washington Post reported.
Simon, a male Continental Giant rabbit, was an offspring of Darius, who holds the Guinness World Record for longest rabbit.
Annette Edwards, a former model who lives and breeds Continental Giant rabbits in Worcestershire, England, said Simon was on his way to a new home in the United States and had been declared ‘‘in good physical condition’’ and fit to travel by a veterinarian the day he left, according to the Washington Post.
Darius’ offspring sell for close to $400 each, Edwards told the Post.
In a report detailing its findings about the April 9 episode, United apologized again for the events involving the passenger, Dr. David Dao, who suffered a concussion and a broken nose and lost two teeth, according to his lawyer, Thomas Demetrio.
The airline also promised to introduce several other changes to its booking and boarding procedures later this year.
United said that passengers who have boarded flights should never have to give up their seats, except for safety or security problems. The airline also said that it would no longer ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers from its planes over booking issues and that all crew members traveling to other flight assignments would be booked into seats at least an hour before departure, two changes it had announced previously.
United said it would also create an automated check-in process that gives customers a chance to express their willingness to relinquish their seats in exchange for compensation. And starting Friday, United will increase the maximum sum offered to passengers who voluntarily give up their seats to $10,000 from the $1,350 cap that most airlines use.
In raising the cap, United is following the lead of Delta Air Lines, which announced on April 14 that its supervisors could offer up to $9,950 in compensation to passengers who voluntarily gave up their seats. Industry officials said that compensation offers would still start at a few hundred dollars, and that payments close to the new caps were likely to be rare.
Security officers dragged Dao off a plane in Chicago to make room for an airline employee trying to get to work in another city. The episode has been a public relations disaster, prodding United to a broad examination of how it treats customers.
“Our goal is to reduce incidents of involuntary denial of boarding to as close to zero as possible and become a more customer-focused airline,” the airline said in the report.