The death of a giant rabbit being transported on a United Airlines transatlantic flight from London is being investigated by the airline.

The 90cm-long bunny, called Simon, was found dead in the cargo hold when the flight arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare airport from Heathrow.

UK media reports said the continental giant rabbit was being delivered to a new “celebrity” owner.

United, which has faced weeks of bad publicity following the controversial dragging of a passenger off an overbooked US flight, said it was “saddened” by Simon’s death.

The Sun newspaper reported that Simon was the son of the world’s largest rabbit – a 1.3m-long continental giant rabbit called Darius.

Owner Annette Edwards told the newspaper: “Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle.

“Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before.”

United said in a statement sent to the BBC: “We were saddened to hear this news. 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.”

Latest US Department of Transportation figures for 2016 show that US airlines reported 26 animal deaths.

Of those, nine deaths were on United flights, with further 14 creatures injured.

Across the year, United carried 109,149 animals, meaning there were 2.11 incidents for every 10,000 animals transported during the period.