A North Texas woman is suing American Airlines for $6 million claiming flight attendants over-served alcohol to an intoxicated passenger who sexually assaulted her during an international flight last fall.
The woman, whose name is being withheld because she may be a victim of sexual assault, claims a man on her flight from London to Dallas was continually served alcohol, even after she alerted flight attendants that the man was intoxicated and groping her in her seat.
"I tried to prevent this from escalating and I feel like I did not get the support that I needed to make that happen," the woman told NBC 5. "If I don't speak up, if I don't pursue all the channels available, then that means it's OK and it's not."
In the lawsuit filed Aug. 20, the woman said she boarded a flight Nov. 9, 2018 and took her window seat next to an occupied aisle seat.
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The woman said she and the man sitting next to her initially had a casual conversation and that he didn't appear intoxicated.
While on the phone with her husband, the woman said the man asked her if he knew of a "good honky-tonk where folks drink," in Dallas, the lawsuit said. According to the woman, the man bragged about how he and an associate "drank up to 25 beers a day." Soon after, the lawsuit said, the man spilled wine on a female flight attendant while trying to hug the woman, yet the flight crew continued to serve him up to three drinks at a time.
Over the course of the flight, the woman reported the man become more boisterous and lewd. At one point, as she drank milk, the man said "Hey look, she just milked herself and is going to drink it." Later, while reaching into her handbag for a tea bag the man loudly proclaimed, "Hey everyone, look; she's getting a condom from her bag because she and I are going to go have sex in the lavatory!"
The woman again complained about the man's behavior to flight attendants who only said they'd let other flight attendants know about the man's behavior after warning her not to "cross classes" into First Class.
The woman returned to her seat and attempted to watch a movie, but her seatmate was undeterred. When she pretended to be asleep, a tactic advised by a flight attendant, the man took a blanket from his bag and placed it over her. The woman said she then felt "extremely uncomfortable."
The man then placed his head on her chest and she nudged him away. He then pretended to awaken and asked the woman, "Have we had sex yet?" and "Is it time to do it?"
The man again pretended to fall asleep and made contact with the woman. She said he then slid his hand under the blanket and began rubbing her thigh. She moved his hand and when he tried to touch her leg again a second and third time. When she tried to get up to move, the man grabbed her arms and exclaimed, " Don't divorce me! Please don't divorce me!" as he restrained her for several minutes until she was able to break free.
"Oh I was mad. I was mad because the flight attendants had actually advised me to pretend like I was sleeping," the woman told NBC 5. "It was awful. It was very frightening."
The woman went to the lavatory to compose herself. As she exited, she said the flight attendants were again serving the man alcohol.
Furious, she again told the flight attendants the man was intoxicated and touched her. They then found her a seat at the back of the aircraft.
The man was escorted off the aircraft when the plane landed in Dallas but she said he was ultimately released and not charged. Because he has not been charged we have not shared his name in this report. The woman told NBC 5 that she tried to press charges against the man, but that it's been difficult to pursue because he lives in England.
"I cannot overemphasize the anxiety I feel prior to and during flights now," the woman told NBC 5.
American Airlines issued a statement Wednesday, saying: "We want all of our customers to have a safe, positive travel experience with us. We are deeply troubled by any allegation of misconduct on-board 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."