Last week, a New York family filed a federal lawsuit against Delta Air Lines after a drunken male passenger groped the mother and 16-year-old daughter on their flight from New York City to Athens, Greece.
The family has not identified themselves to the public, the lawsuit referring to the plaintiff as “the parent of the teenager” and only referring to the mother and daughter by their initials. The lawsuit identifies “A.A.” as the mother and “N.A.” as the 16-year-old daughter. According to the lawsuit, the daughter was seated in the middle seat with her mother originally seated next to her. The mother then switched seats with a male passenger and sat next to her husband on the flight.
The male passenger allegedly tried to order a “vodka on the rocks” prior to the plane even taking off. The lawsuit claims that “the Delta flight attendants served the intoxicated Delta passenger approximately 10 vodka on ice drinks” in a matter of the first 3 hours of the 9-hour flight. The man was visibly intoxicated, slurring his words and becoming more insistent that the teenaged girl talk to him. The family claims that he became “aggressive” after the girl asked him to stop talking to her.
The man began demanding the girl to tell him her address, telling her he lives in Connecticut. The lawsuit states that the girl “was frightened by his personal questions, tone and body language and turned her back to him to tell her mother that she was scared.” The suit continues to say that after the girl turned away from the man, he “began grabbing N.A., putting his hands on her back.”
At this point the mother intervened, trying to ask the man to leave her daughter alone, informing him that the girl is a minor. As the mother was trying to reason with the drunk passenger, he “began pulling and pushing” at her arm. The mother then tried speaking to a flight attendant about the passenger’s behavior, telling them that he was “very drunk and was making both her and her 16-year-old daughter feel unsafe by yelling, making obscene gestures and touching her daughter inappropriately.” The lawsuit states that the flight attendant told the mother to “be patient,” and walked away from the situation without addressing the man at all.
The man got up to use the restroom eventually, and the mother took action again, finding the flight attendants and reasoning with them to please stop serving him alcohol. By the time the man came back from the bathroom, he was already holding a fresh glass of wine.
While trying to ignore the drunken man, he reached his hands into the back of the teenaged girl’s shirt. The lawsuit states that “N.A. was frozen as she felt the intoxicated Delta passenger’s hand fingering her bra strap and moving over her body. N.A. was trembling, petrified and crying and finally got the courage to jump out of the seat and out of his reach.” The suit goes further, stating that the man even touched the mother’s upper thigh, moving “toward her vagina.”
During the incident the mother and her daughter spoke to the head flight attendant and the pilot of the Delta airplane to explain the situation, but both Delta employees stated there was nothing they could do. One of the flight attendants told the family that they had been asking for volunteers to switch seats with them, but had no luck.
After another passenger saw the mother and daughter crying, they offered to switch seats with them. The kind passenger told the mother that they did not hear anything about an announcement for volunteers to switch seats from the flight attendants.
The mother asked flight attendants to have authorities meet them upon arrival in Athens. However, the drunken man was apparently allowed to leave the plane as it landed with no police being called. Delta has declined to comment on the lawsuit aside from a spokesperson making a statement over the weekend saying that Delta Airlines has “zero tolerance for customers who engage in inappropriate or unlawful behavior . . . Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and our people.”
The family is suing the airline for $2 million in damages on the grounds that Delta violated New York’s human rights law by not protecting them from sexual misconduct. It also claims Delta staff were negligent by continuing to serve a clearly intoxicated passenger, despite Federal Aviation Administration policy on the topic.