Merry Cannon and her two young children, ages 1 and 5, were joining her husband on a business trip to Europe when they encountered a series of alleged traveling issues including a dead rat discovered in their luggage.
The family booked flights on American Airlines for the March 5 trip, but the flight was eventually canceled because of a broken windshield, news.com.au reported. The group then missed their connecting flight to Chicago.
Hours later, the four of them were rebooked on a different flight to Chicago. However, that flight was also delayed for an hour on the runway.
Though Cannon told news.com.au that the family was bumped up to business and first class “for all the trouble,” once they arrived at Chicago, they discovered American Airlines had “given up” their seats for their connecting flight. The family claims they were not able to get on a flight until 10 pm the next day.
However, the trip was about to get even worse for the Cannon clan. Once they landed, the family discovered their luggage was lost.
“[American Airlines] lost our luggage for five days,” Cannon told news.com.au. “The night before we were leaving for London to return home, it was delivered at 10:30 p.m. Honestly, by then it was comical and my husband joked that at least when we get home we won’t have all that laundry to do.”
The pair and their two small children finally returned home to Arkansas, but their travel complications were far from behind them.
“When we returned home in Arkansas I immediately went to the American Airlines customer assistance desk to report how awful my bag smelt. I actually told them that it smelt like something had died. I, of course, didn’t think that was actually the case," Cannon said.
Cannon claims the airline staff member suggested the smell was from it getting wet while it sat out for days on the runway, the New York Post reported.
“He thought it was mold, but even said it smelled far worse than that,” she said to news.com.au.
Cannon said she was instructed to go wash her luggage and clothing to see if the smell would dissipate, and then file a claim through the airline’s baggage claim department.
“When we returned home, we took the bag to our back porch because the smell was so horrendous. I began to wash the clothes. I washed one load three times in bleach, vinegar, OxiClean and Tide,” she said.
“I finally decided whatever was on them would not come clean. I placed all those clothes in (garbage) bags. I grabbed more clothes in hopes that maybe the bottom of the bag didn’t get wet, so they would come clean," she added.
When Cannon neared the bottom of her luggage, she discovered the source of the vile smell.
“When I grabbed the clothes is when I saw the rat. I have never screamed and cried so much in my life. I ran inside and began scrubbing my hands and arms. I had touched the things in this bag because American Airlines told me to just wash everything,” she said to news.com.au.
Cannon said she called the airline, who said her claim would be expedited, and then called the Department of Health for advice on how to proceed with the dead, possibly foreign, rat.
“Literally for three minutes the health inspector just repeated, ‘OMG. This is horrible. I don’t even know what to say, I’m so sorry. I’m thinking,’” she said. “Finally when I asked if the rat needed to be tested he said that because we don’t even know what country the rat is from that they wouldn’t even know where to start. I then asked if I should be concerned and he said, ‘The biggest concern would be the plague.’ That never even entered my mind.”
“The one positive thing he did tell me was, ‘a dead rat is better than a live rat.’ You can probably imagine how comforting that was to me. He told me that where we live burning garbage is illegal, but the bag and all the belongings needed to be burned immediately,” she continued.
When Cannon hung up with the Department of Health, she claims she contacted the airline again to confirm her bag and its contents would be handled by the airline and she would be compensated for everything.
Cannon took four hours to fill out the required paperwork from the airline, but did not hear from them for a week, she alleges. According to news.com.au, Cannon called the airline again and left message after message.
“Finally they told me that they would give me $1,600, which is the maximum international payout. My bag and its belongings totaled $3,217. To me that’s crazy that international has a payout that is about half as much as domestic,” she said. “The whole trip with American Airlines was a bit of a nightmare and the rat in the bag was, for lack of better words, the cherry on top!”
“I along with my husband travel fairly often and I can honestly say this is the worst thing we have experienced. To me it’s not so much the money, it’s the lack of respect they have. That customers are disposable and they are big enough that they just don’t care. They don’t have to make things right,” she added.
American Airlines shared a comment with Fox News about the incident:
"We have apologized and are not aware of any similar issues of a rat making its way into a checked bag before. 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."