Aubrey Lane, 32, is suing American Airlines for what she describes as a travel horror story.
Lane says that in June of 2017 she boarded a flight from Phoenix to New York and was seated next to a visibly drunk man who continued to be served drinks by the airline. That man, she said, eventually became her attacker.
Lane claims that after sexually harassing her as her seat mate, the man followed her into an on-flight bathroom and raped her.
In a federal lawsuit, Lane and another passenger allege that the airline’s staff failed to protect her and others by continuing to serve her attacker alcoholic drinks and brushing off concerns about his increasingly aggressive behavior.
The other passenger in the suit — a woman seated across the aisle who witnessed the alleged attacker’s increasingly sexually aggressive behavior toward Lane — observed him ordering two vodkas, a Coke, and a beer.
“This amount of alcohol served at one time to any person who is already visibly intoxicated is irresponsible,” the suit said.
Lane’s fellow complainant continued: “My annoyance turned to concern when 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.”
“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.” 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,” the passenger said in the suit.
“I alerted the flight attendant as he walked by, he shrugged and said, ‘Well they are drinking…’ and walked away.”
After the alleged attack, Lane said she was given a new seat. “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 told the Dallas Morning News.
She said she was taken to the hospital once the flight landed but that her attacker was allowed to leave, even as she met with police.
The lawsuit also notes that in 2014, there were 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault reported in the US. In 2017, there were 63.
In a statement to the Guardian newspaper, American Airlines 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.”