In the latest twist to the case of the dead rabbit, an anonymous "airport worker" has told a reporter that it was killed by leaving it in a freezer locker, contradicting the accounts of United executives who have claimed the rabbit was well treated. United also hastily incinerated the body without the owner's permission, preventing any kind of autopsy from occurring. This all happened apparently at Chicago O'Hare.

My question is why an airline would have a freezer at all, and why would they be putting luggage or pets into said freezers. I mean when I make connections I kind of assume they are not putting my bags in a freezer. Do airlines have freezers?

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    $\begingroup$ You are using "The Sun" as a reference? Do not believe a single word that "newspaper" publishes. Even then, you haven't read it correctly - I quote - "He said: “We know from the inventory that that the rabbit was alive when it reached the airport. So it happened in the warehouse." $\endgroup$ – Simon May 1 '17 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon I understand that. That does not change my question. My question reads "airline" not "aircraft". An "airline" includes their ground operations. $\endgroup$ – Tyler Durden May 1 '17 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ I would point out that the article lists the "freezer" temperature as 0-2°C, which is not the temperature for a freezer, but a chiller. I think the article (and the source, if accurately quoted—big if) has incorrectly referenced the equipment as a freezer for dramatic effect. $\endgroup$ – J Walters May 1 '17 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ A rabbit at O'Hare? Was the article dated 1 April? $\endgroup$ – FreeMan May 1 '17 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan: If you hadn't said it, I was about to! ;-) $\endgroup$ – jvriesem May 1 '17 at 17:22

enter image description here
(Source) Cool room in a cargo terminal.

The rabbit arrived fine but there was some sort of mistake and he was locked inside a freezer overnight.

Goods that are perishable and human remains awaiting transport, wait in the freezer before being loaded onto flights.

Different rooms for cargo handling can be seen here, they include:

  • Cool rooms
  • Freezer rooms
  • Warm rooms (for e.g. perishable flowers)
  • Dangerous goods rooms

There are also specialized ULD's that come with refrigeration units.

enter image description here
(Source) Temperature controlled ULD.

[Depending] on the nature of the goods to be transported, [ULD's] may have built-in refrigeration units.

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    $\begingroup$ Dry-ice "technology"? I didn't realize that freezing a gas was "technology". TIL... $\endgroup$ – FreeMan May 1 '17 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan And apparently things related to the sun are also technology, as in solar tech. Or maybe the-- wait, no, they definitely mean what you implied they mean. Dang, and I was so excited about being able to make a snarky comment. $\endgroup$ – Fund Monica's Lawsuit May 1 '17 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the manifest merely said "rabbit" and they assumed it was packed, butchered rabbit meat. $\endgroup$ – Coxy May 2 '17 at 4:09

Parcel services use temperature regulated containers for shipping various products. Pharmaceuticals come to mind. Human organs are normally packed as independent packages, but are sometimes placed in thermally regulated containers. Substantial amounts of produce are shipped via air transport.

Hubs have temperature controlled areas for cargo. It can include produce, pharmaceuticals, etc. Even parcel "stations" for ground delivery services have them when they have customer needs.

  • $\begingroup$ and sometimes things that need to be kept very cold are shipped in a thermos filled with liquid nitrogen. Not joking, it's done :) $\endgroup$ – jwenting May 2 '17 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ It is done but dry ice is preferred. LN is more hazardous in the event of a container breech. $\endgroup$ – mongo May 2 '17 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ Cargo on airliners sometimes have unique requirements. For example, deceased human bodies are commonly carried on passenger planes. The bodies tend to leak fluids, and can be heat sensitive. They are chilled prior to loading, and in high ambient temperatures are off loaded should there be substantial delays. At altitude, bleed air is used to manage heat to the cargo area, and cadavers in the cargo area will bias the temperature colder by many operations. Similarly, live pets in the cargo may bias the temperatures upwards. Company dependent. $\endgroup$ – mongo May 3 '17 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ My dad worked for a company (as CEO) shipping bull semen and cattle embryos around the world for exchange of genetic material between breeding firms. They did it just like that, a steel thermos filled with liquid nitrogen, carried in the cabin luggage of a courier (with proper documentation of course). Speed is of essence during such shipments, even having it gate checked can cause delays long enough that the material degrades. LN lasts long enough for the purpose, and is cold enough, dry ice isn't. $\endgroup$ – jwenting May 4 '17 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ Mind we're talking life genetic material here, not dead. $\endgroup$ – jwenting May 4 '17 at 5:50

I'm not aware of any American carriers that have freezers onboard that are accessible to the crew during flight. For catering purposes, dry ice has been the accepted means of keeping food chilled until preparation and serving. It's primary use was keeping food at cold temperatures while transporting to the aircraft and while on the ground. It wasn't needed once the food was boarded and usually was removed by the flight attendant when they signed off on catering. Once chilled, the food containers remained that way for the short time until service was started. The exception to this would be if you had a long haul flight with two services then you would keep dry ice the the food carriers for the second service. Refrigerators and freezers for cargo transportation purposes are a separate subject.

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    $\begingroup$ "Refrigerators and freezers for cargo transportation purposes are a separate subject." But it's the subject this question is about... $\endgroup$ – reirab May 1 '17 at 23:15

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