A mother who says she was raped by a drunk man in a plane bathroom is suing American Airlines, claiming they over-served the man alcohol and failed to protect her.
Aubrey Lane, 32, has described how she was allegedly assaulted on a flight from Phoenix to New York City on June 16, 2017.
The airline says it will ‘thoroughly review’ her claims but earlier dismissed them as a ‘nuisance’ complaint.
Mrs Lane says she was traveling to the Big Apple for a family trip when a drunk passenger who was sitting next to her on the overnight flight allegedly followed her into the bathroom and raped her.
She claims in the lawsuit that she told staff but they simply moved her to another seat at the back of the plane. When the flight landed she was taken to hospital but her alleged attacker, whose name she does not know, was not arrested.
Mrs Lane claims that before the alleged attack another woman sitting in the same row warned staff about the man’s inappropriate behavior but they did nothing and continued to serve him drinks.
She was forced to sue after American Airlines failed to take her case seriously by offering her only a $5,000 payout for a ‘nuisance’ claim, she says.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in a federal court, Lane’s lawyers wrote: ‘Knowing the clear dangers of intoxication and the sexual assault threats, especially on red eye flights, American offered no protection to Aubrey Lane… despite the verbal warnings of Passenger 12C and the obvious obnoxious, aggressive, threatening and intoxicated behavior of Passenger 12B.
An American Airlines spokesman said that the company is yet to receive her lawsuit, but will ‘thoroughly review it’ when they do.
A spokesman said: : ‘We are deeply troubled by any allegation of misconduct onboard our aircraft or at any of our facilities.’
‘If our crews discover or are told about any alleged illegal misconduct that may occur on the aircraft, law enforcement is contacted and will meet the aircraft upon arrival… It is up to law enforcement to determine what, if any, criminal activity took place.’
Lane claims the passenger appeared drunk the moment he took his seat next to her, and she could smell the alcohol on his breath.
‘My first thought was this guy’s drunk. He was super chatty,’ Lane said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News. ‘I’ve flown a lot. I’m used to people saying hello. This is the most anyone has sat down and started talking to me.’
Despite this, she says the flight attendants continued to serve him alcohol throughout the flight.
A few hours into the flight, Lane says she got up to use the restroom. She told the Dallas Morning News in March that the man got up and followed her into the bathroom where he raped her. Her lawsuit says she was sexually assaulted.
Lane immediately reported the incident to flight attendants, who moved her to a seat at the back of the plane.
American Airlines tried to pay Lane $5,000 to settle her lawsuit. She did not take the offer (stock image)
‘I was feeling overwhelmed … all of a sudden, I was thrown in a middle seat, bawling. On top of being sad and hurt and scared, I was also embarrassed,’ Lane said.
When they landed at JFK Airport, authorities were called to meet the plane at the gate, but only to take Lane to the hospital.
Her alleged attacker was not taken into custody and to this day she still doesn’t know his name.
Because the incident happened in the air, it is up to the FBI to investigate and prosecute.
Agents were dispatched to the hospital where they interviewed Lane, but she says the case had got nowhere.
The FBI’s New York Field Office did not immediately return a call from DailyMail.com inquiring about the status of the investigation.
Paul Hudson, the president of the consumer advocate group Flyers Rights, says the apparent lack of progress is not surprising, since the FBI doesn’t consider assaults a priority.
It’s caused stress on every level. It’s affected every single part of my life
‘What we’re hearing from people is the US Attorneys don’t want to prosecute [and] don’t have time for these things,’ Hudson said.
‘Often they are misdemeanors or are ‘he said, she said.’ That’s not what they do. They’re into terrorism and drug cases.’
Frustrated with the response, Lane decided to sue American Airlines.
Her attorneys say the airline was negligent for letting the drunk man board the plane and continuing to serve him drinks.
Last year American spokesman Ross Feinstein refused to comment on the specifics of the case, but issued this statement: ‘We want all of our customers to feel safe on our aircraft. We care deeply when we hear of these types of cases… our team offers investigative support as needed to federal, state and local law enforcement.’
He later added that the airline was sorry for not reaching out to Lane immediately after the assault to assure her they were taking the investigation seriously.
‘We want to apologize that we missed the mark on assuring Ms Lane how seriously we take her complaint,’ Feinstein said.
Lane is speaking out in hopes that American Airlines and other carriers improve their policies for addressing in-flight assaults.
‘I’m coming out now because [American] hasn’t made it evident it wants to change this,’ Lane said. ‘What’s going to stop this from happening again unless I make a big fuss about it?’
Lane’s family picked her up at the hospital after the assault, and her husband even flew out to comfort her on the trip – getting a last minute babysitter for their two-year-old son.
Lane said she had been inundated with bills for counselors and she stopped working as a real estate brokers’ associate because she doesn’t want to be alone with strangers.
She has also moved across the state to be closer to her husband, who is in the military.
‘It’s caused stress on every level. It’s hurt my job, my homelife,’ she said. ‘It’s affected every single part of my life.’