"Had we known there were cremated ashes in the bag, we would have had her remove them or found a place for the bag," the airline said.
In February 2016, Iddy Pierre-Canel said goodbye to her daughter, Carm-Idrelle Casseus, who died at just 28 years old. Following her untimely death, Pierre-Canel planned her daughter's funeral and had her body cremated.
In March 2016, Pierre-Canel traveled from Baltimore, where her daughter’s funeral was held, back to her home in Tucson, Arizona. According to Pierre-Canel, she packed her daughter’s ashes in her carry-on luggage, however, when she arrived at the gate, she was asked by an American Airlines employee to check her bag.
Pierre-Canel told NBC she made it clear to an agent that she was carrying the ashes and did not want to check the bag. The agent then took the bag, according to Pierre-Canel, and she assumed it was being brought onto the plane for her.
"When the plane took off, that's when I realized I didn't have my bag," she said. "They said, 'Oh, they checked your bag in.'"
To make matters worse, when the plane arrived in Tucson, the luggage was nowhere to be found.
Following the incident, Pierre-Canel created a list of items inside her lost bag per American Airlines' policy, TravelPulse reported. According to Pierre-Canel’s list, her lost items were worth an estimated $24,000, but the urn was not mentioned. Additionally, she failed to produce any receipts for the $24,000 in goods, which the airline requires.
Pierre-Canel’s attorney, Lorraine Morey, said the urn wasn’t on the list because there was no way to place a monetary value on it.
“The contract of carriage with the airline does state that valuable and invaluable property should be kept with the person in the cabin,” Morey said. “And that's exactly what my client was trying to do.”
Nineteen days after the airline lost the luggage, they found the bag and returned it to Pierre-Canel, however, the urn was not inside. "I went through it. I was screaming. I was hurt. I wanted to die, because I felt that I failed my child," she told NBC. "You understand? I failed her, because my child did not die just once. I lost her twice."
On March 17, 2017, Pierre-Canel filed a $10-million lawsuit against the airline for its failure to return the urn.
A spokesperson for American Airlines told Travel + Leisure that they are working directly with Pierre-Canel on a resolution. Additionally, in a statement provided to NBC, the airline said: “When we need customers to gate check a bag, we always ask for customers to remove all valuables and important documents. Had we known there were cremated ashes in the bag, we would have had her remove them or found a place for the bag. We apologized for losing the items and certainly are very sorry for her terrible loss.”