Teen sues American Airlines after finding an iPhone recording her while using the restroom

BOSTON — The family of a North Carolina teenager is suing American Airlines, saying that a flight attendant taped an iPhone to an airplane toilet to record her using the restroom during a September flight.

Lawyers for the 14-year-old and her parents say that American “knew or should have known the flight attendant was a danger.” They say the failure of other crew members to confiscate the employee’s phone allowed him to destroy evidence.

The lawsuit against American and the unidentified flight attendant was filed Friday in U.S. district court in North Carolina.

American said the flight attendant was “withheld from service” immediately after the alleged incident and has not worked since.

“We take this matter very seriously and have been fully cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation, as safety and security are our highest priorities,” American said in a prepared statement.

According to the lawsuit, the incident happened on a Sept. 2 flight from Charlotte to Boston.

An iPhone is taped to the back of a toilet seat on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Boston, Sept. 2, 2023.
An iPhone is taped to the back of a toilet seat on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Boston, Sept. 2, 2023.Lewis & Llewellyn LLP via AP

The girl said that while she was waiting to use a bathroom in the economy section, where her family was sitting, the flight attendant told her to use one in the first-class cabin. He entered the bathroom first, saying he needed to wash his hands, then emerged a minute later to tell the girl that the seat was broken but not to worry about it.

The girl said that after she used the toilet, she noticed an iPhone that was mostly hidden by red airline tape reading “Remove from service” — but the camera flash was glowing.

The girl “was shocked and scared,” according to the lawsuit. “It immediately occurred to her that someone had put the phone there to film her using the toilet.”

She took her own picture of the device.

Lawyers for the family suggested that the flight attendant removed the phone and erased images of the girl before letting her father see his iPhone photos.

The family said an FBI agent later told the girl’s mother they did not arrest the man because they did not find any incriminating images on his phone.

The family’s lawyers said they do not know the flight attendant’s name, where he lives or whether he still works for American. The 14-year-old is undergoing therapy for trauma, they said.

Neither the girl nor her family are identified in the lawsuit. The Associated Press does not name victims of sexual assault or abuse unless they come forward publicly.

American is based in Fort Worth, Texas, and has a major operation at the airport in Charlotte.