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Talk about a travel nightmare coming true. Merry Cannon, her husband and their two children, ages 1 and 5, were trying to fly from their home in Arkansas to Europe on American Airlines for her husband’s business trip. The group endured several travel obstacles: a canceled flight because of a cracked windshield, missed connecting flights and delays and luggage that the airline lost for five days.

The Cannons thought their complicated trip was over when they landed back in Arkansas and finally retrieved their luggage. Then one bag started to stink.

“When we returned home in Arkansas I immediately went to the American Airlines customer assistance desk to report how awful my bag smelt,” Merry Cannon told “I actually told them that it smelt like something had died. I, of course, didn’t think that was actually the case.”

Airline staff told Cannon that perhaps the smell was from the bag getting wet while it sat outside for days on the runway. “[The airline rep] thought it was mold, but even said it smelled far worse than that,” she said. The airline employee told her to wash her bag and clothes, and if the odor persisted, to file a claim with the airline.

“When we returned home, we took the bag to our back porch because the smell was so horrendous,” she said. “I began to wash the clothes. I washed one load three times in bleach, vinegar, OxiClean and Tide. 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.”

Then, at the bottom of the bag, she found the source of the stench.

“When I grabbed the clothes is when I saw the rat,” she said. “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.”

Cannon called American, and the airline expedited her claim. She then called her local health department, who told her “the biggest concern would be the plague,” she said. “That never even entered my mind.” The health department told her to burn the bag and everything inside immediately.

It isn’t clear at what point before or during the trip the rat entered her bag.

“We have apologized and are not aware of any similar issues of a rat making its way into a checked bag before,” American said in an email statement to TPG. “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.”

Cannon says it took the airline a week to finally offer her compensation for her bag and belongings. But, the airline eventually reimbursed her for roughly the maximum amount possible for a mishandled bag on an international trip.

“Finally they told me that they would give me $1,600, which is the maximum international payout,” she said. “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.”

Cannon says she frequently travels with her husband on his business trips, but this was the worst thing she’s ever experienced. “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!”

H/T: Fox News

Featured image by studioEAST/Getty Images.

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