A woman is sueing American Airlines $13.5m AUD for forcing her to check in her luggage on a flight and then losing it, along with her daughter's ashes.
Iddy Pierre-Canel was flying back to Tucson, Arizona, from Baltimore, Maryland, after her daughter’s funeral and cremation on March 5, NBC’s 12 News reports.
According to Ms Pierre-Canel’s lawyer, Lorraine Morey, American Airlines insisted twice that Ms Pierre-Canel check in her bag while waiting at the gate, even though she made it clear she was carrying her daughter’s ashes.
She then allegedly remembers an employee picking her bags up, but she said she was under the impression they were helping her take the bags to her seat as she was distraught and had been crying.
"When the plane took off, that’s when I realised I didn’t have my bag [and] they said, 'Oh, they checked your bag in,'" Ms Pierre-Canel recalled.
Her attorney Lorraine Morey said her client was then promised her bags would be the first off the plane but when she arrived to Tucson, her bag was nowhere to be found.
"I begged American Airlines every day to find the urn," she said.
The airline released a statement following the incident, saying, "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 apologised for losing the items and certainly are very sorry for her terrible loss."
A spokesman for American Airlines insists the airline staff were not made aware of the luggage’s contents, saying Ms Pierre-Canel was asked to list the contents of her bag and their value but that the urn was not included.
Ms Morey said the urn was not written down because there was no way to assign a dollar value to her daughter’s remains but said there was an extensive email train showing the main concern was for that urn.
Nineteen days after American Airlines lost the luggage, they found the bag and returned it to Ms Pierre-Canel.
She said: "I went through it. I was screaming. I was hurt. I wanted to die because I felt that I failed my child."
"I failed her because my child did not die just once. I lost her twice."
She said her daughter’s wish was to have her ashes "spread across the sea in Hawaii, the South of France, off the coast of Venice, Italy and off the coast of Australia."