A flight attendant is suing American Airlines after her colleagues accused her of smuggling her pet rats inside her underwear and pantyhose during an international flight.
Louann Giambattista, 55, says the allegations put her on a customs blacklist for over a year. She is now seeking damages for post-traumatic stress disorder and “debilitating anxiety.”
A Long Island resident, Giambattista has worked in the industry for 33 years. In February 2012, a pilot who helped her out of a van during a layover claimed that Giambattista had a “bulge in [her] pocket” and believed he saw “what he thought was a live pet” inside.
According to papers filed in Brooklyn federal court, another colleague reported that she saw Giambattista feeding a pet rat on the same day during a flight from St. Martin to Miami. When they landed in Florida, colleagues told customs officials that Giambattista had a rat on her.
She was detained, questioned, and her luggage searched for over an hour, Giambattista claims, but the agents never found any rats.
Giambattista swears she wasn't feeding a rat from a cup on the Miami flight — she was eating a bread roll from the cup herself in order to not look unprofessional in front of passengers.
Nevertheless, a flag was put on her passport by American Airlines. She claims that led to lengthy stops and bullying from Immigration and Customs Enforcement from then on. She even says they threatened to strip search her and made it “nearly impossible for [her] to report to work.”
“Everybody has pets — she has her pets at home, not at work,” her attorney, Stephen Morelli, told The Post. “She’s not a nut. They’re making her out to be a nut.”
It is unclear whether her colleagues knew she owned rodents before they made the allegations. Giambattista owns a dog, gerbils and hamsters. She used to own a rat, but according to Morelli it died.
The flight attendant says she has no idea why she was targeted.
“There was no reason for it,” Giambattista told The Post. “People say, ‘There must have been a reason,’ but there is none.”