An American Airlines passenger found a dead rat in her checked luggage after a trip to Europe.
The passenger, Merry Cannon, told Inc magazine that she was joining her husband on a business trip to Europe when a series of delays, cancellations, and missed flights disrupted their plans.
Once they arrived in Belgium, she said, they were told their luggage was still in the U.S., and it arrived near the end of their trip.
When they returned to Arkansas, Cannon noticed an unpleasant smell coming from her bags — she told Inc it smelled "like a dead body."
According to the Inc report, an American Airlines customer-service representative told Cannon that the bag may have developed mold after being left in the rain before it reached Europe, but Cannon said she hadn't noticed a similar smell before coming back to the U.S.
The representative then said the luggage may have been exposed to sewage from the airplane bathroom on the flight home and told Cannon the airline would compensate her for the damaged luggage only if she could prove that her efforts to wash its contents were ineffective.
Cannon says that when she returned home, she started washing clothes from the bag and still noticed the smell. Then she found the rat.
"I screamed, ran inside, started washing my hands over and over," she told Inc. "I was just crying."
Cannon said in a Facebook post that American Airlines didn't respond to her for at least 41 days as she "called & emailed numerous times."
She told Inc that a local health department official suggested she burn the bag, citing concerns about bubonic plague. "The whole bag was destroyed as the health department requested," Cannon told Business Insider.
An American Airlines representative told Business Insider that Cannon was given $1,600 as a result of the incident. Cannon suggested to Inc that the bag and the clothing in it were worth more.
"We have apologized and are not aware of any similar issues of a rat making its way into a checked bag before," the representative said. "While we are unable to determine if the issue occurred in the United States or overseas, we did apologize to the customer, and they were compensated earlier this month."
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.