A flight from Southwest has sued the airline after claiming two pilots secretly recorded video of the plane's bathroom on an iPad during a flight.
The alleged incident happened on Flight 1088 from Pittsburgh to Phoenix on February 27, 2017. According to court records reviewed by BuzzFeed News, about two and a half hours into the flight, Captain Terry Graham asked for an air hostess to accompany the pilot Ryan Russell in the plane's cockpit while Graham left to use the bathroom, so Southwest politics requires two crew members in the cockpit at all times.
When Renee Steinaker, a flight attendant, entered the cockpit, she says she saw an iPad mounted to the plane's windshield that showed Graham in the plane's bathroom. Steinaker claims that when she asked Russell, who also had a clear view of the iPad, whether the camera was streaming directly from the bathroom, he admitted it was and told her it was hidden where "no one would ever find it." The lawsuit claims that Russell asked Steineker not to tell anyone about the camera or the recordings because they were "downlow."
"It was terrible for her," Ron Goldman, a Steinaker lawyer, told BuzzFeed News. [1
Southwest said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the airline "does not place cameras in the restrooms of our aircraft."
According to court documents, Steinaker took a photo of the iPad and the video to Graham using her cell phone, which she later shared with the other flight attendants.
When she returned from the bathroom, Steinaker claims Graham was trying to hide the iPad, and refused to answer her questions about it. Both Graham and Russell reportedly got off the plane immediately after landing in Phoenix, which Steinaker says was a violation of the protocol.
Graham also loaded a loaded firearm unattended in the cockpit, the lawsuit claims.
Steinaker states in the lawsuit that crew members, including himself, and passengers, had used the bath during the flight.
She says that she and the other crew members reported the incident to Southwest and asked the airline to obtain the feed from the iPad and cockpit voice recordings before Graham and Russell flew the aircraft to their next destination.
Goldman, Steinaker's lawyer, told BuzzFeed News that Steinaker immediately reported the incident to a superior at the gate in hopes that the airline would take action.
"We think it didn't happen," he said.
Steinaker claims she was instructed by a supervisor to keep the incident to herself, because "if this came out, if this went public, no one, I mean nobody, would always fly the airline again," according to court documents.
The two pilots later flew the flight to Nashville with a new set of flight attendants.
Southwest said in its statement to BuzzFeed News that the safety of employees and passengers is an "uncompromising priority."
"At this time, we have no other comments on the pending litigation," the statement states.
Both Graham and Russell are still employed as pilots by Southwest, according to the lawsuit. Calls and emails to their lawyers were not returned Saturday.
The lawsuit was filed by Steinaker and her husband, David Steinaker, who is also a flight attendant in the Southwest. It claims that both the couple, as well as other flight attendants aboard Flight 1088, have since been subjected to retaliation in the form of harassment and surveillance, including increased drug and alcohol testing and performance audits.
Steinaker, the lawsuit alleges, has suffered physical and mental distress as a result of the incident and the airline's response to it.
"My main concern, in addition to the safety of the crew members, is that, in my opinion, flight safety was compromised," Goldman said. "This is not a pervert playground."
Goldman said it is unclear when or if the actual iPad and its contents were obtained by Southwest, and that he and his client are "very concerned that the cockpit voting system and the original iPad may have been compromised."  Steinaker and her legal team have not yet seen the iPad or its contents, which Goldman said is expected to happen during the discovery phase of the trial in November.
Meanwhile, Goldman said, he is disappointed with how Southwest Airlines has chosen to handle Steinaker's claims, calling the company's response "restrictive."
"In my opinion, they have treated it as a kind of joke or prank between frat boys," Goldman said. "I have no indication that they have taken this as seriously as it should be."