San Diego passenger sues American Airlines, says employee stalked and harassed her

Travelers cross the sky bridge at San Diego International Airport.
(Howard Lipin / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A woman is suing American Airlines, alleging an employee grabbed her private contact information while she was awaiting a flight at San Diego International Airport and sexually harassed and stalked her.

The woman alleges the airline learned of the man’s behavior but did nothing about it.

Ashley Barno filed the suit in San Diego Superior Court on Jan. 6 against American Airlines and the employee, referred to as “John Doe,” saying she doesn’t know his name. She is seeking damages for claims of negligent hiring and supervision, sexual harassment, stalking and causing emotional distress.

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein emailed a statement on the lawsuit Wednesday, saying the man was no longer an employee and was not on duty at the time of the alleged acts.

“American Airlines takes the privacy and safety of our customers seriously. We investigated the allegations and took appropriate action. The employee involved in the complaint is no longer employed at American Airlines. The employee was not on duty for American at the time,” the statement said.


CNN reported that the unwanted text messages started in April from a man who told Barno his name was Ahmad.

She was waiting for a flight from San Diego to Chicago when she got a text from someone asking how she was and saying they had met “the other day at the airport,” the news agency reported. The man said he worked for American Airlines and told her she was “gorgeous.”

When Barno asked how he got her number, CNN said, the man insisted she had given it to him and she must have forgotten. Later, he said he got her number from her luggage tag. He said he was on her flight to Chicago and asked her to sit with him.

Barno told him to stop texting her, but he replied that friendship with him would be to her advantage. “I can always give you good seats, access to the lounges and free flights too!!” CNN reported.

Barno alerted a flight attendant to her text messages and was told they were familiar with “Ahmad,” according to CNN. He was escorted off the plane first when it landed in Chicago.

Barno claims in the suit that she told the man to stop communicating with her, but he continued.

“Defendant Doe made it clear that he wanted to have sexual contact with Plaintiff, and aggressively communicated with her to further his goal,” the lawsuit alleges. “Defendant Doe kept her contact information and did not stop contacting her for a long period of time, and also sent her sexually-suggestive images.”

The suit further claimed that the airline “knew of its employee’s propensity to initiate unwanted sexual communication with employees” and with customers, but kept him on as an employee.

“Defendant American Airlines did not do a sufficient job in hiring and supervising employees to keep its customers safe from sexual harassment and stalking,” the suit alleges.