By Andrea Romano
April 26, 2018
Getty Images

Having an airline misplace your baggage is never a positive experience — but not all lost luggage debacles are created equal. Merry Cannon, an American Airlines passenger from Fayetteville, Arkansas, learned this the hard way.

Cannon was flying from Arkansas to France with her children to surprise her husband, who was on a business trip, news.au.com reported. However, the flight was canceled, and the family missed their connecting flight in Chicago.

When the family rebooked, Cannon said their new flight also ended up being delayed, and to make matters worse, their seats on their new connecting flight in Chicago were given up and they needed to rebook again. The family did still manage to make it to Europe in spite of several days of travel upsets.

Despite all this, the worst was still yet to come.

Related: How a 4-hour Flight Turned Into a 33-hour Nightmare With 4 Planes and a Fire

“They lost our luggage for five days,” Cannon told the Australian news site. “The night before we were leaving for London to return home, it was delivered at 10:30 p.m.”

Not only was the bag late, Cannon noticed it had a particularly rancid smell. Once she got home, she immediately notified American Airlines about her issue.

Related: American Airlines Flight Canceled Because of a Scorpion

“I actually told them that it smelt like something had died. I of course didn’t think that was actually the case,” she said. Cannon says reps for the airline theorized that some contents from the lavatory may have leaked onto the bag, which is a horrifying idea in itself. They advised she wash the bag and everything in it, then file a claim with American's baggage department.

Unfortunately, Cannon says, the smell would not come out of her clothes, despite several loads of laundry. After finally getting to the bottom of the bag, she finally realized why.

There was a dead rat inside.

“When I grabbed the clothes is when I saw the rat. I have never screamed and cried so much in my life,” she said. After Cannon called American Airlines, updating them about the rat, customer service expedited her claim and she was told not to touch anything else in the bag. She also called the Department of Health.

“Literally for three minutes the health inspector just repeated, ‘OMG. This is horrible. I don’t even know that to say, I’m so sorry. I’m thinking,’” Cannon said.

The health inspector also warned that the plague could be a concern, or the possibility of disease-carrying fleas, Cannon said, advising her to burn the luggage and its contents immediately. Where the family lives, however, burning garbage is illegal.

Cannon said she went back and forth with American Airlines trying to get compensated and have her bag picked up. Despite the customer service agent telling her that they would take care of it immediately, she said she told news.com.au she still spent four hours filling out paperwork and a week waiting for a response. 

“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.

American Airlines apologized in a statement to Newsweek and said they were not "aware of any similar issues of a rat making its way into a checked bag before." 

"...we did apologize to the customer, and they were compensated earlier this month," the statement said. The airline confirmed that she was given about $1,600 in compensation, Newsweek reported. 

“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," Cannon said. "They don’t have to make things right.”

She shared a photo of the rat on Twitter. Warning: You may not want to scroll if you're squeamish about rodents.