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A woman is suing an airline after one of its employees stole her number, stalked and harassed her

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Megan Murray
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A woman is suing American Airlines after an employee allegedly obtained her number without her knowing and sent her deeply disturbing messages.

It’s enough that women are forced to deal with the unwanted attention of men at work, in bars and even in the street. Now, after a very concerning story has made headlines, it looks like we’re not even safe boarding a plane.

A woman called Ashley Barno is reportedly suing American Airlines after receiving a flurry of inappropriate (read: downright creepy) messages from a member of the airline’s staff.

Barno says she was sitting in San Diego International Airport in April 2019 when she started to receive messages from an unknown number. The sender claimed they could see her and acted as if they knew who she was, despite having never met her before and initially withheld their own identity.

CNN reports that after initially texting Barno to ask her how she was, the messenger said they had met her “the other day at the airport” and continued to say “Btw I must tell you that you are gorgeous!”

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Barno consistently asked who the messenger was, to which he replied that she gave her number out to him on a previous journey and must have forgotten. 

Hmmm. We’re pretty sure it’s rare that a woman simply ‘forgets’ giving her number out to a complete stranger in an airport.

After more questioning, the sender finally admitted that he was part of the American Airlines staff team and had taken her number from her luggage tag.

Worryingly, he then started suggesting that he could see Barno. Without revealing his own location he shows he’s watching her by writing: “You are looking very gorgeous in grey top today!!”

When Barno asked him where he was and why he wouldn’t come and speak to her, he said he couldn’t see her anymore. 

At this point, the situation already sounds like a You spin-off series, and we’re sure it would leave most people feeling intimidating and scared. But when Barno boarded her flight, she realised that he too, was on the plane.

It is at this point that the messages began increasing in frequency. Despite Barno asking him to leave her alone, he writes in four separate messages, one after the other: “Ok its up to you, but Friendship with me will be very beneficial for you!!

“I can always give you good seats, access to the lounges and free flights too!!”

“You can think about it!

“But if its still a NO thts up to you I will not bother you again but atleast give me a one chance to prove my self! And I am at row 15.” 

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Barno alerted the flight attendant who her attorney says was helpful and supportive, and the man who had been messaging her was escorted off the place first so that she didn’t have to interact with him.

Now, Barno says her mental health has been affected and she has had difficulty socialising, eating and sleeping. Speaking to CNN, her attorney Joe Samo says: “Basically, after this happened, her sense of privacy is heightened, her concern about who has her number and now she is concerned when she has to give it out. She is nervous when she is alone and has to travel for work.”

Although distressed, this hasn’t stopped Barno from taking action. Not only is she suing the American Airlines employee (who is unnamed in the lawsuit) over the encounter for sexual harassment, stalking and intentional infliction of emotional distress. But she’s also suing the airline for negligent hiring, supervision and retention, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

As well as the texts detailed above, Barno’s case also alleges that he continued to send her aggressive, sexual messages and images with sexual content. And that this wasn’t the first time he had obtained a woman’s number without her knowing and sent her unwanted messages.

Barno’s experience sounds traumatising, but unfortunately, it’s not surprising. It is however, encouraging that she’s taking action, something that we are becoming more equipped to do in the UK as upskirting, misogyny and cat calling have been, or are on the way to being, criminalised. 

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Images: Getty Images

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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