NBC San Diego has the story of how a local San Diego woman has filed a lawsuit against American Airlines, after she was harassed by an employee in a frightening way.
Passenger receives harassing text messages
In April 2019, Ashley Barno was flying American Airlines from San Diego to Chicago. While in the gate area, she started receiving text messages:
“Hey, Ashley! How are you?”
“BTW I must tell you that you are gorgeous.”
Barno asked how he knew her, and how he got her info. He didn’t answer those questions. The harassment continued:
“You are looking very gorgeous in that gray top today.”
The person texting her identified himself as “Ahmad,” and said he worked for American Airlines. The texts continued even after she boarded her flight:
“I am on board now. Are you going to Chicago too??”
“Will you join me?”
“I really like you!! Come on join me!!”
She told him to leave her alone, but he continued:
“Ok it’s up to you, but friendship with me will be very beneficial for you. I can always give you good seats, access to the lounges, and free flights.”
Passenger gets flight attendant involved
I can only imagine how creeped out Barno must have been, being in an enclosed space with an unknown creep. So she got the flight attendant involved. Apparently the flight attendant confirmed that Ahmad was an American Airlines employee.
The flight attendant took the situation seriously and alerted staff in Chicago, and the creep was removed from the plane upon landing.
Barno shares the following about how she felt:
“I got off the plane, too. I called my sister, and I was crying profusely because I just felt… I mean, the best way to describe it was, I felt naked in a public place.”
How Ahmad got her information
This is the part that kind of surprises me. When I first started reading this story, I assumed that an on-duty employee might have been harassing her, or that an off duty employee was somehow using company systems to look up her personal details.
However, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Apparently Ahmad had gotten her name, cell phone number, and address from the luggage tag on her carry-on bag. Barno assumes that he may have been sitting near her, and taken a picture (or something) of her bag tag.
Barno has since found out that Ahmad had harassed at least one other passenger. While American Airlines called her about the incident, they ignored her requests for more information. She wanted assurance that Ahmad had been disciplined, but the airline didn’t do much.
Because she didn’t get anywhere, she has hired an attorney and is suing American Airlines:
“I tried for several months to work this out amicably, but I think they didn’t take it seriously, and no one responded to me.”
By hiring an attorney, she hopes to get more information about what happened. The attorney explained:
“We’re doing this to send a message to big corporations that this behavior is not acceptable. They have to train their employees better and take better precautions to make sure these things don’t happen again.”
In response to this, American Airlines issued the following statement:
“American Airlines takes the privacy and safety of our customers very seriously. While we can’t discuss details about this individual case, we investigated the allegations and took appropriate action.”
My takeaways from this
There are a few things that come to mind when I read this story.
First and foremost, this is beyond creepy. The lack of respect that some people have for others is disgusting, and I can only imagine how violated she must have felt.
Next, I don’t see anything suggesting that Ahmad used any private company information to access her details, since he apparently just looked at her luggage tag. So this could have just as easily been another passenger creeping on her:
- On the one hand that’s even creepier, since it means anyone could have done this, and since it means he was in such close proximity to her
- On the other hand, it means he wasn’t abusing access to company systems to get her info
This doesn’t impact the outcome — that someone made very unwelcome advances — but it is interesting to me nonetheless.
The worst part is that this apparently wasn’t even Ahmad’s first time harassing another passenger.
I’m pleased that the flight attendant was so helpful, though I’d be curious to know how all of that went down:
- Did someone on the manifest have the name Ahmad, and was that how he was identified?
- Did the flight attendant confront Ahmad and ask him to stop harassing the passenger, or was this a surprise to Ahmad upon landing?
- In a way, I’m surprised this didn’t cause a diversion, given just how creepy this was
What we should learn from this case
This is a good reminder to be careful with the personal information you make publicly available. Never write your entire name, phone number, and address on a luggage tag:
- Ideally don’t have a luggage tag at all, but rather place something in your bag that has your contact details
- If the airline insists you have a luggage tag, put minimal info on it, and definitely don’t include your address
- If you’re going to have a luggage tag, ideally have one that doesn’t just openly display the info, but where you have to open or pull something out in order to access the details
“Ahmad” sounds like a total creep. On the surface I don’t think American as such is at fault for what he did, because he wasn’t using company information for this (as far as we know), and because as far as I know the company has training against this kind of stuff (not to mention it should be common sense… but that doesn’t stop people).
Any company with 100,000+ employees is going to have some creeps and “bad hombres” as employees, who simply don’t understand boundaries.
What American is responsible for is the poor way they seemingly responded to the situation. Furthermore, if there were reports of the employee having done this before and he wasn’t properly disciplined, then that would be on them too.
What do you make of this situation?
(Tip of the hat to Peter)