This is a weird one: a veteran American Airlines flight attendant accused by her colleagues of smuggling a pet rat onto an international flight in her underwear has filed a lawsuit against the airline, claiming the accusations have resulted increased customs screenings and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Two American Airlines employees made the rat-smuggling allegations against Louann Giambattista, 55, in 2012. According to the lawsuit, one of the accusers, a pilot, told airline officials “he saw a bulge in [her] pocket” that looked like a “live pet” as he helped her exit a van during a layover. A flight attendant on another flight “believed [Giambattista] fed her pet rats” during at least one flight.
Giambattista denied both allegations, saying that the flight attendant saw her “eating a dinner roll out of a cup,” not feeding her pet rat, reportedly named “Willard.”
Regardless, the accusatory flight attendant notified immigration authorities of the possible rat sighting after the flight landing in Florida. Immigration officers then searched Giambattista's bags. Despite not finding any rats, Giambattista said the officials flagged her passport, which forced her to undergo stops and searches each time she passed through customs. She was also threatened with strip searches, according to the lawsuit.
“There was no reason for it,” Giambattista said of why she was targeted. “People say, ‘There must have been a reason,’ but there is none.”
Giambattista's attorney admits his client is an animal lover who owns dogs, gerbils, hamsters, and, at one time, a pet rat.
“Everybody has pets — she has her pets at home, not at work,” attorney Stephen Morelli told the New York Post. “She’s not a nut. They’re making her out to be a nut.”
“She’s got a lot of different pets,” he added. “She had the rat — it died.”
Giambattista is seeking unspecified damages from American Airlines, who told the Post they would respond to the claims in court.
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