Two Southwest Airlines pilots allegedly hid a camera in a plane's lavatory and live-streamed the video to an iPad mounted on the windshield of the cockpit aboard a flight, according to a lawsuit filed by a fellow flight attendant.
The pilots recorded video of passengers and crew members aboard the February 2017 flight from Pittsburgh to Phoenix, according to the lawsuit filed in Arizona state court last year and recently transferred to federal court.
Southwest in a statement Sunday denied the airline places cameras in its aircraft lavatories and said the 2017 incident was an "inappropriate attempt at humor."
In the suit, flight attendant Renee Steinaker alleges she saw an iPad streaming video from the plane's forward lavatory when she entered the cockpit about 2 1/2 hours into Flight 1088. The captain, Terry Graham, had asked her to come into the cockpit so that he could use the lavatory. Southwest Airlines protocol requires a second person in the cockpit at all times.
Steinaker saw the pilot in the streaming video on the iPad mounted on the windshield left of the flight captain's seat, according to the lawsuit. The complaint said co-pilot Ryan Russell admitted to Steinaker that the iPad was streaming from a camera in the lavatory, but tried to convince her that the cameras were a "top-secret security measure installed in all of Southwest's Boeing 737-800 planes."
According to the lawsuit, Steinaker and passengers, including young children, had used the forward lavatory. Both pilots remain flying for Southwest, the complaint said.
The lawsuit was originally filed in an Arizona state court in October 2018 on behalf of Renee Steinaker and her husband, David Steinaker, also a Southwest flight attendant. In late August it was moved to federal court in Phoenix. The Steinakers live in the Phoenix area.
Ronald L.M. Goldman, an attorney for the couple said the alleged live-streaming compromised safety.
"The cockpit of a commercial airliner is not a playground for peeping Toms. Behavior that distracts and distresses crew members during flight compromises safety," Goldman said in a statement.
The Steinakers' attorneys say the flight attendant has risked her career by making the incident public, and has been subject to retaliation by Southwest. The attorney also said the three other flight attendants on Flight 1088, and Steinaker's husband, who wasn't on that flight, have faced harassment and been subjected to more than the usual performance audits and drug tests.
When asked Sunday about the employment status of the pilots and the allegations of retaliation, Southwest Airlines declined to comment. "At this time, we have no other comment on the pending litigation," the airline said.
The lawsuit claims Steinaker was physically distressed and unable to work for several days after the incident, and continues to have "physical, emotional, and mental injuries as a result of the incident."
Court filings by attorneys for Dallas-based Southwest and the two pilots denied the live-streaming allegations, according to the Associated Press.
In it's statement, Southwest said when the incident happened, the airline investigated the allegations and addressed the situation with the crew involved.
"We can confirm from our investigation that there was never a camera in the lavatory; the incident was an inappropriate attempt at humor which the company did not condone," the airline said.
It added: "The safety and security of our Employees and Customers is Southwest's uncompromising priority. As such, Southwest does not place cameras in the lavatories of our aircraft."
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