Jewel Thomas recently sued American Airlines over a 2008 flight that skidded off a Chicago runway after making an emergency landing. The former Microsoft employee, currently on unpaid disability leave, claims the traumatizing experience "changed my whole world" to the point where she can "freak" out at the mere sound of a plane. The Bellevue, WA, resident isn't the first litigious passenger in recent memory. Here are 5 more incidents that led unhappy fliers to call their lawyers:
1. The man who was forced to sit on the toilet seat: Gokhan Mutlu was thrilled to snag the last spot on a 2008 JetBlue flight from San Diego to New York. Distressingly, however, 90 minutes into the trip, the flight's pilot allegedly told Mutlu to give his seat to a flight attendant and "go hang out" in the bathroom for the remainder of the flight — leaving him unable to fasten anything resembling a seat belt when the jet experienced turbulence. He filed suit for $2 million.
2. The highly inappropriate seatmate: A woman sued American Airlines for $200,000 for allegedly failing to protect her from a sexually abusive passenger on a 2008 flight from Los Angeles to Dallas/Fort Worth. The suit claims that the woman awoke to find the empty seat beside her occupied by a man who was staring at her as he pleasured himself. She later concluded that he had ejaculated into her hair.
3. The vanishing dog: Army Lt. Col. John Weisner and Ronia Weisner arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, eager to fly to Saudi Arabia with their beloved Jeddah, a purebred Canaan Arabian Desert dog. According to a suit filed this summer by the Weisners against United Airlines, airline staff forced the Weisners to stash Jeddah in a special $250 travel kennel, then failed to notice that Jennah had escaped and refused to help the frantic Weisners locate him. The couple says they've not seen their dog since.
4. The luggage-refund feud: In a case that may have wide-ranging implications, a Washington woman sued American Airlines, alleging that the company not only lost her luggage, but refused to refund her $25 checked-bag fee. The suit seeks class-action status, claiming that the plaintiff is just one of many passengers to get stiffed so pettily. According to the Department of Transportation, American Airlines lost or damaged 26,874 bags in June alone.
5. The forgotten sleeper: After dozing off while on board a United Airlines flight, Michigan resident Ginger McGuire alleges that she woke up to find herself locked inside an empty grounded plane — and endured a "horrifying" four hours alone before a cleaning crew found her. She's suing United Airlines and a partner airline. "It was a little much," she said.