DEATH OF A RABBIT- Admittedly, it was not as violent and humiliating as dragging a customer off a plane with a broken nose and two teeth missing, nor is it comparable to the weird removal of a couple on their way to their wedding in Costa Rica, or forcing a passenger out of her business-class seat without any explanation. But with a dead giant rabbit in its cargoholds, United Airlines is - again - facing fresh controversy.
Couple these facts with the disgusting scenes aboard a recent American Airlines flight where a crew member bullies a passenger over the handling of a pram, or Delta kicking a passenger off a plane for the emergency use of the toilet, and your conclusion is probably justified that the disdainful and arrogant way in which the three main U.S. carriers are mistreating their passengers (and animals), is becoming disturbingly symptomatic for the often dreadful air transport experience in the U.S.
Not surprisingly, even before the scandalous handling of the doctor who was forcibly removed from a plane, United Airlines already had been rated as the worst large airline in the U.S. for customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
Overall, U.S. legacy airlines found themselves at the bottom of all businesses, in line with hospitals and private utilities and just above health insurers.
The good news is that with mobile phones recording practically any incident on board or on the ground, airlines are no longer able to ignore or put a positive spin on an altercation going viral on internet.
Nor do crap statements, such as "the video scenes do not reflect our values or how we care for our customers," have any impact on the public's perception that air travel in the U.S., with really very few exceptions, is decidedly unpleasant and uncomfortable.
The bad news, at least in the U.S., is that customers can hardly punish an offending airline by calling for a boycott. United, American, Delta and Southwest Airlines now control 85% of the market. Like all monopolies, they generally don't give a hoot about improving customer service or fret about losing passengers.
As for the dead bunny, U.S. Department of Transportation figures show that in 2015, the most recent data available, U.S. airlines reported 35 animal deaths.
Of those, 14 deaths were on United flights, with a further nine creatures injured, making it the highest rate seen on any U.S. airline, according to the data.
Dead bunny Simon: United's latest PR disaster