HOUSTON -- We’ve all heard the horror stories about people being trapped inside airplanes, sitting on the tarmac for hours.
Houstonian Rhonda Wilmer recently experienced that firsthand.
"At one point, I just wanted to scream, ‘Just let me off the plane!’" she said.
A group called the Coalition for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights is fighting for a change. The face of the coalition is Kate Hanni.
Hanni is pushing Congress to pass a law that would force airlines to allow delayed passengers to get off the plane so they can eat and go to a clean restroom.
"Airline passengers have less rights than a prisoner of war per the Geneva Convention," Hanni said.
But if the Passenger Bill of Rights becomes a reality, it will reportedly cost the airlines an estimated $40 million a year.
And for that reason, Hanni believes she’s become a target – a victim of a crime so bizarre, it reads like a John Grisham novel.
Hanni said that all of her e-mails and research disappeared last month.
"I’ve had a catastrophic loss of information and I can’t recover it," she said.
She claims Delta and Metron Aviation obtained the hacked e-mails in an effort to derail her proposed legislation, and she believes she can prove it.
Hanni has filed a lawsuit in Houston.
"For Delta Airlines, the biggest airline in the world now, to be utilizing hacked e-mails to gain an advantage is beyond me," Hanni’s attorney, Jason A. Gibson, said.
"I have been contacted personally by others … reporting several other lawsuits that are already in place against this particular carrier for hacking their e-mails," Hanni said.
A spokesperson for the airline said they can’t say much because the lawsuit is pending, but "obviously the idea that Delta would hack into someone’s e-mails is clearly without merit."
Gibson said Hanni has talked with the FBI, and the FAA is investigating the matter.
"So the major question that we have is one, did they personally participate in the hacking of these e-mails or two, did they simply get this information to utilize it to their own benefit to help derail this legislation that the coalition is trying to get passed," Gibson said.
The coalition is seeking $1 million in actual damages and $10 million in exemplary damages … and of course, a new law protecting passengers.