A woman says she was groped and sexually harassed on an American Airlines flight to DFW Airport after flight attendants over-served alcohol to the man next to her, according to a lawsuit recently moved to U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas.
The Texas woman was on a flight from Europe to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in November when the passenger next to her started acting belligerently, she said in the suit.
An American Airlines spokeswoman said the company is “deeply troubled by any allegation of misconduct onboard our aircraft or at any of our facilities.”
“If our crews discover or are told about any alleged illegal misconduct that may occur on the aircraft, law enforcement is contacted and will meet the aircraft upon arrival,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “In all cases of misconduct between two passengers, we will immediately separate them, and request law enforcement meet the aircraft, which is our standard protocol. It is up to law enforcement to determine what, if any criminal activity, took place.”
The woman says in her lawsuit that the man got steadily drunker as flight attendants served him “copious amounts of alcohol,” at times giving him three alcoholic drinks at once.
The woman told flight attendants the man was acting inappropriately, but they continued to bring him drinks, according to the suit.
At one point, the woman reached into her purse and he said loudly that she was “getting a condom” so they could have sex in the bathroom, the suit stated.
The woman again told flight attendants to stop serving him drinks, and one of them told her, “He is probably done. Go back to your seat, and he will probably settle down and go to sleep,” the woman said in the suit.
When the woman got back to her seat, she pretended to fall asleep to avoid conversation with the man, the suit says. The man put his head on her chest and grabbed her arm, she said. She nudged him off her body, thinking he may have moved in his sleep.
He opened his eyes and asked, “Have we had sex yet?” to which the woman responded, “No, and it’s not happening,” and put a pillow between them, the suit stated.
Again, the man moved on top of the woman, according to the suit. He put his hand under the blanket and started to rub her thigh and grope her. She moved his hand away three times, and then got up out of her seat entirely.
The man grabbed her arm and yelled, “Don’t divorce me!,” she said. The woman yanked away and went to the bathroom.
When she walked back to her seat, the woman said, she saw a flight attendant giving the man two glasses of wine.
The woman demanded to talk to someone in charge of the flight. According to the suit, an employee told the woman they could move to her to the back of economy class.
“I’m the one who is going to have to move?!” the woman said to the attendants. To avoid being sexually assaulted again, she went to the back of economy, the woman said in the suit.
When she was leaving the plane, the suit says, the woman heard a flight attendant say they could get into trouble for over-serving the man.
According to the suit, during the investigation of the alleged assault, an American Airlines agent said the flight crew was aware the man was acting in a “boisterous” and “obnoxious” manner.
When the flight landed, American Airlines’ customer service team and law enforcement met the woman on arrival. The woman did not press charges against the man.
The woman said in the suit she now is extremely anxious to fly. She is asking for at least $1 million in compensation and $5 million in punitive damages from American Airlines.
The lawsuit initially was filed in April in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, where the attorney representing the woman is based. The case was transferred to Texas last week.
American Airlines headquarters is in Fort Worth.