The airline employee no longer works for American, but this story is still a terrifying cautionary tale
As someone who travels pretty frequently, I try to always be aware of how visible the contact tags on my luggage are. It’s necessary to have them in case my bags get lost and need to be returned to me, but I’m always stressed that someone at the airport or on the subway on the way home will be able to see them and get my phone number or address. This terrifying story about a woman who was harassed by an airline employee is a perfect illustration of why that thought is so scary.
Ashley Barno was flying with American Airlines from San Diego to Chicago, waiting to board her flight, when she received a text.
“Hey, Ashley! How are you?” it read. She didn’t recognize the number.
“The whole time I kept asking him, ‘Who are you? How do you know who I am? How’d you get my info?'” Barno told NBC.
The texts from the mystery person didn’t stop there, but the person sending them wouldn’t tell Barno his name. Things took a turn for the terrifying when he texted her, “You are looking very gorgeous in that gray top today.” Finally, he admitted he was an American Airlines employee.
What made matters even worse is that once Barno boarded her flight, no only did the texts not stop, but the sender revealed he was also onboard.
“I am on board now. Are you going to Chicago too??” one text read.
Barno responded, “Not ok! Not cool. Leave me alone.”
The airline employee, who had identified himself only as “Ahmad,” kept texting Barno, telling her there were perks to having a relationship with him.
“Ok it’s up to you, but friendship with me will be very beneficial for you,” he wrote. “I can always give you good seats, access to the lounges, and free drinks.”
Finally, Barno flagged down a flight attendant, who was able to confirm that the mystery texter was a fellow airline employee. Barno said she was “furious,” and that the man was escorted off the plane when it arrived in Chicago.
“Just knowing that he knew what I looked like, and that we were in an enclosed plane and that there’s no way out, like really, really scared me,” Barno said, adding that the whole encounter made her feel “naked in a public place.” She said someone from American Airlines initially reached out to her, but when she pressed for answers about what had been done to discipline the man, all contact stopped.
She’s now suing American Airlines for negligent hiring and sexual harassment. In a statement sent to NBC, American said the man no longer works for the company.
“American Airlines takes the privacy and safety of our customers seriously. We investigated the allegations and took appropriate action,” the statement reads.