CHICAGO - Jim Shockley said he made arrangements to send the remains of his grandmother, Ella Shockley, to her home state of Illinois after she died in early May from cancer at age 85.
Instead, American mistakenly shipped her 3,000 miles away to Ethiopia.
After waiting by the baggage carousel for over an hour, Shockley realized that his grandmother’s body might have been lost. “I just kept walking around the carousel and staring at the baggage opening waiting for the casket to come out, but it never did. At one point, another casket that looked like Grandma’s came out, but when I went to grab it, I realized that it had a red bow tied around the handle and her casket had a yellow one. Boy, that would have been an embarrassing mix-up,” he said.
Shockley’s fear was confirmed when he was paged to report to the American Airlines office. “They told me that a worker had put in the wrong airport code and instead of going to Chicago, my grandmother was on her way to Ethiopia. They also informed me that I would have to pay an extra $500 to ship the body back to the states.”
The ordeal only got worst for Shockley when one of the managers started making jokes about the situation. “He told me that he hopes my grandma doesn’t stiff them on the bill and that she must have been dying to visit Ethiopia. I found it to be very insensitive,"Schockley said.
To top it all off, when the casket finally arrived 4 days later, it was severely damaged. “The outside of the coffin looked like it had been hit with a sledgehammer. When we opened it up, Ella’s clothes were scattered everywhere and a TSA inspector note had been shoved into her anus reminding us that locks on baggage are prohibited.” I was mortified”, said Shockley.
Since the incident, Shockley has started a petition to ban American Airlines. He vows that he will never use American ever again and hopes other patrons will follow.
“If one of your family members dies, please do yourself a favor and use a bus or train to transport their remains. If you must fly, I suggest using any carrier besides American Airlines and using carry on instead of checking in your coffin. Thanks to American Airlines, my grandma was actually late to her own funeral."
American Airlines could not be reached for comment.