May 27, 2023

American Airlines passenger who says she was raped in plane toilet sues carrier

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From South China Post

  • Aubrey Lane says staff failed to protect her and others when they served the alleged attacker as many as six alcoholic drinks
  • American Airlines ‘deeply troubled by any allegation of misconduct onboard our aircraft’

An American Airlines passenger who says she was raped in the bathroom on a domestic flight is suing the carrier, claiming it allowed an obviously intoxicated man to board the plane and continued to serve him alcohol.

Aubrey Lane, 32, claims her seatmate, whose identity has not been released, continually harassed her on an overnight flight from Phoenix to New York in June 2017, eventually following her into the lavatory and assaulting her.

In a new federal lawsuit, Lane and another passenger allege airline staff failed in their duty to protect her and others when they served her alleged attacker as many as six alcoholic drinks and disregarded warnings about the man’s behaviour.

“Knowing the clear dangers of intoxication and the sexual assault threats especially on red-eye flights, American Airlines offered no protection to Aubrey Lane, nor provided any of the enhanced common carrier duties,” read the complaint, which was filed in federal court in New York last week.

The airline has promised to “thoroughly review” Lane’s claim, having previously dismissed it as a “nuisance” and offered her US$5,000.

In court papers, another passenger, referred to as 12C for her seat number, in the same row as Lane in 12A and the alleged attacker in 12B, said: “I started hearing him say how pretty she was, how lucky her husband was to have such a ‘bangin’ wife’ and how ‘what happens on vacation stays on vacation’.

“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’.

He then began to tell her he was in love with her, to which she retorted: ‘That’s impossible! You can’t fall in love with someone in one night!’ Which followed a shouting match of: ‘Yes you f****** can!’ ‘No f****** way!’, etc. This drew a lot of attention, but when I alerted the flight attendant as he walked by, he shrugged and said: ‘Well they are drinking …’ and walked away.”

According to the lawsuit, Lane had one drink.

Speaking to The Dallas Morning News in March, Lane said that several hours into the flight, she got up to use the bathroom and was followed there and raped.

In the lawsuit, she claimed she was sexually assaulted.

Lane told the newspaper that after immediately reporting the alleged incident to airline staff, she was simply moved to another seat.

When the plane touched down at New York’s JFK international airport, she said, her alleged assailant was allowed to leave, even as she was greeted by police and transported to a hospital nearby.

“I was feeling overwhelmed … all of a sudden, I was thrown in a middle seat, bawling. On top of being sad and hurt and scared, I was also embarrassed,” Lane said.

American Airlines is headquartered outside Dallas. In a statement, it said: “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.”

According to FBI figures cited in the lawsuit against American, in 2014, 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault were reported in the US. In 2017, there were 63 such cases. Previous reporting has spotlighted a lack of relevant training for airline employees.

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