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June 14, 2024

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American Airlines attorneys, in a filing in a lawsuit, blamed a 9-year-old female passenger for not noticing a hidden camera installed in the lavatory.  That camera was allegedly installed by a former American Airlines flight attendant, who was working the flight and was later arrested for allegedly filming a 14-year-old girl on another flight.  The former flight attendant, Estes Carter Thompson III, had recordings of four other prepubescent girls using the lavatory, including the 9-year-old plaintiff, who is facing multiple charges.

Responding to legal actions, American’s attorneys filed statements that “any injuries or illnesses were caused by the plaintiff’s own fault and negligence” and that “she knew or should have known contained a visible and illuminated recording device.”  

The outrage over this statement reverberated throughout, forcing a retraction from American, that appears too little and too late to repair the damage to the airline’s reputation.  How could American even think of blaming the victim in this situation, in which a flight attendant had possession of recordings of the girl from the aircraft bathroom? In an investigation into that incident, prosecutors said videos of four additional girls using aircraft lavatories were found on Thompson’s iCloud account that were recorded between January 2023 and August 2023. Authorities say the four girls were 7, 9, 11, and 14.

This shows exceptionally poor judgment from American’s legal council and leads to questions about the basic values of American’s management team.  A public and personal response from their CEO would be more appropriate, as American employed an alleged sexual deviant and failed to protect its passenger’s privacy in the aircraft restroom.  American is already trailing its rivals in the market, and this news doesn’t help.

American Airlines says an “error” was made in a legal filing when it blamed the 9-year-old girl who was secretly recorded.  Our outside legal counsel retained with our insurance company made an error in this filing,” a spokesperson said in a statement.  The included defense is not representative of our airline and we have directed it be amended this morning.  We do not believe this child is at fault, and we take the allegations involving a former team member very seriously.  Our core mission is to care for people – and the foundation of that is the safety and security of our customers and team.”

That is an understatement. An egregious action occurred that should never have happened, and it appears that American Airlines, in its statement, is now blaming its insurance company. Who in American Airlines’ legal department approved the original statement, and why are they still employed? These are appropriate questions. Shame on you, American Airlines. Where are you, Mr. Isom? This deserves a personal and public apology to the child and her family.

author avatar
Ernest Arvai
President AirInsight Group LLC

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