A woman who says she was raped by a drunk passenger aboard an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to New York last year has sued the airline and said airline employees should not have allowed him to board the flight.
The passenger accused of sexually assaulting Aubrey Lane was intoxicated before he boarded the airplane and employees continued to serve him alcoholic beverages after he stumbled to his seat, the lawsuit says.
According to an eyewitness in a nearby seat, the passenger accused of sexual assault was in an “obvious intoxicated state, with glazed eyes and fumbling in the aisle trying to find his seat,” the lawsuit says.
Also, attorneys argued that airline employees should have acted more forcefully after several warnings about the danger the passenger posed to the crew and other passengers, according to the lawsuit. The flight occurred overnight on July 16, 2017, what is typically referred to as a red-eye flight, according to the lawsuit.
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“We will thoroughly review Ms. Lane’s lawsuit once we receive it,” the airline said in a statement. “We want all of our customers to have a safe, positive travel experience with us and we are 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. 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.”
An American Airline official said no criminal charges have been filed as far as they know.
Once the intoxicated passenger reached his seat, he immediately ordered two vodkas, a Coke and a beer, followed by another identical order, each filled by American Airline employees, the lawsuit says.
In a statement to American Airlines, the witness complained that “this amount of alcohol served to any person who is already visibly intoxicated is irresponsible,” the lawsuit says.
Cabin crew members were warned by the witness that they needed to intervene as the intoxicated passenger grew louder and more belligerent, but the warnings were ignored by staff, the lawsuit states.
“While Aubrey had been drinking, she clearly was not interested in pursuing this man in 12B, but over time he began to move closer to her, grab her face and kiss her, which she would push him off and say that ‘couldn’t happen,’” the witness statement says.
This was followed by a shouting match, but when the witness alerted the flight attendant, he shrugged and said, ‘“Well they are drinking ...’ and walked away,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit argues that the behavior of the airline employees violates not only American Airlines policy, but federal regulations.
According to the witness statement, Aubrey Lane, the woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted, had one drink. The statement says that later in the flight the intoxicated man got up and went to the men’s room. About five minutes later, Lane went to the restroom.
Lane returned first and was quiet, the lawsuit says. When the intoxicated man returned he tried to snuggle up to Lane, but she turned away. The intoxicated man continued to pester Lane for her attention, and after she ignored him he began calling her derogatory names, the witness says in the statement.
The intoxicated man dropped his beer in the witness’ seat and a flight attendant seated the witness in another seat four rows back. The witness told the flight attendant, “The girl in 12A is not safe to be alone with 12B. You need to move her now,” the statement said.
The witness described the behavior of the airline employees as dismissive, even hostile, toward Lane after she was moved. Later, while they were sitting together, Lane told the witness that the intoxicated man had forced his way into the bathroom and sexually assaulted her.
The witness said in her statement that Lane did not report the incident to the flight attendants because she was in shock, slightly intoxicated and questioning herself about what happened.
The witness told the pilot what happened and also documented the details of the flight to American Airlines officials, the statement said.