A federal lawsuit was filed against Delta Air Lines last week, accusing flight attendants of failing to intervene after a male passenger was allegedly served at least 10 alcoholic beverages and then groped a mother and her 16-year-old daughter, according to the filing.
The plaintiff in the suit, filed in the Eastern District of New York on Tuesday, is identified only as the parent of the teenager. According to the filing, the girl and her mother were traveling to Athens, Greece, from New York City on a nearly nine-hour flight last year when the incident allegedly occurred.
A woman who was assigned the seat next to the teenager, who was in the middle, switched with an unidentified man to sit next to her husband, the suit said. The family is referred to by initials throughout the trial, with “NA” referring to the girl, while her mother is identified as “AA”
Before the flight even departed, the man allegedly asked the flight attendant for a “vodka on the rocks”.
“During the first three hours of the flight, the Delta flight attendants served the intoxicated Delta passenger approximately ten vodkas on ice,” the suit states.
The male passenger appeared visibly intoxicated, slurred his speech and constantly tried to get the teenager’s attention the more intoxicated he became, the lawsuit states. When the girl asked him to stop talking to her, the man became “aggressive” and shouted at her.
He allegedly demanded to know where she lived, identifying himself as a Connecticut resident and wanting to know her address.
“NA was frightened by his personal questions, tone and body language and turned her back on him to tell her mother she was afraid,” the suit states. “When NA turned away from him, the intoxicated Delta passenger began to grab NA and put his hands on her back.”
The girl’s mother also intervened and asked the man to leave her daughter alone.
They both told the man that the girl was still a minor in high school, but that he reached out and “began pulling and pushing” on the mother’s arm, according to the suit. The mother spoke to a flight attendant and told them the passenger was “very intoxicated and made both her and her 16-year-old daughter feel unsafe by yelling, making obscene gestures and touching her daughter inappropriately.”
According to the suit, the flight attendant simply told her to “be patient” before walking away.
When the man went to the bathroom, the girl’s mother spoke to the flight attendant once again and pleaded with the staff to stop serving him alcohol. But when he returned, the man had a glass of red wine with him, the suit said.
Later, the girl put her head in her mother’s lap in an attempt to ignore the man as he allegedly put his fingers under her shirt and up her back.
“NA was frozen when she felt the intoxicated Delta passenger’s hand finger her bra strap and move across her body,” the suit said. “NA shook, petrified and cried and finally got the courage to jump out of the seat and out of his reach.”
The man then placed his hand on the mother’s thigh and moved “toward her vagina,” the suit said. The girl and her mother then spoke to both the chief flight attendant on board the plane and the pilot, both of whom reportedly said there was nothing they could do.
Another passenger saw both the mother and daughter crying and offered to switch seats to sit next to the intoxicated passenger after learning about the situation, according to the lawsuit.
Despite the flight attendant telling the family she had asked for volunteers to switch with them, the passenger told the girl and her mother that he had not been asked or heard an announcement about volunteers.
The man was allowed to leave the plane when it landed in Greece, and police were not called despite the mother’s request that authorities meet them in Athens, the lawsuit said.
Delta declined to comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesperson told NBC News in a statement Sunday that the airline has “zero tolerance for customers who engage in inappropriate or illegal behavior.”
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and our people,” the spokesman said.
The lawsuit, which seeks $2 million in damages, accuses Delta of violating New York’s Human Rights Act by failing to protect them from sexual misconduct. It also alleges negligence on the part of Delta staff by continuing to serve the passenger in spite Federal Aviation Administration policy on serving intoxicated passengers.