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Two Southwest Pilots Allegedly Filmed A Livestream Of The Plane’s Bathroom From The Cockpit

According to a lawsuit, a flight attendant said she was warned that if she told people about the incident, "no one would ever fly our airline again."

Posted on October 26, 2019, at 12:10 p.m. ET

Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images

A Southwest flight attendant 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 occurred on Flight 1088 from Pittsburgh to Phoenix on Feb. 27, 2017. According to court records reviewed by BuzzFeed News, about two and a half hours into the flight, Capt. Terry Graham requested that a flight attendant accompany copilot Ryan Russell in the plane's cockpit while Graham left to use the bathroom, as Southwest policy 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 livestreaming from the bathroom, he admitted that it was and told her it was hidden where "no one would ever find it." The lawsuit alleges that Russell asked Steineker not to tell anyone about the camera or recordings because they were on the "downlow."

"That was horrific to her," Ron Goldman, an attorney for Steinaker, told BuzzFeed News.

Russell allegedly told Steinaker that the cameras were a new feature on Southwest Airlines' 737-800s and were in all of the bathrooms on the flight.

Southwest said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the airline "does not place cameras in the lavatories of our aircraft."

According to court documents, Steinaker took a photo of the iPad and the video of Graham using her cellphone, which she later shared with the other flight attendants.

Upon returning from the bathroom, Steinaker claims Graham tried to hide the iPad and refused to answer her questions about it. Both Graham and Russell allegedly disembarked the plane immediately upon landing in Phoenix, which Steinaker says was a violation of protocol.

Graham also left a loaded firearm unattended in the cockpit, the lawsuit alleges.

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Steinaker says in the lawsuit that crew members, including herself, and passengers, had used the bathroom during the flight.

She says 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 plane to its next destination.

Goldman, Steinaker's attorney, told BuzzFeed News that Steinaker immediately reported the incident to a supervisor at the gate hoping that the airline would take action.

"We believe that did not happen," he said.

Steinaker claims she was directed by a supervisor to keep the incident to herself, because "if this got out, if this went public, no one, I mean no one, would ever fly our airline again," according to court documents.

The two pilots later flew the plane 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 comment on the pending litigation," the statement said.

Both Graham and Russell are still employed as pilots by Southwest, according to the lawsuit. Calls and emails to their attorneys were not returned Saturday.

The lawsuit was filed by Steinaker and her husband, David Steinaker, who is also a Southwest flight attendant. It alleges 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 monitoring, including increased drug and alcohol tests 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 primary concern, in addition to the safety of the crew members, is that the safety of flight was compromised in my opinion," Goldman said. "This is not a playground for perverts."

Goldman said it's 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 voice recorder and the original iPad may have been compromised."

Steinaker and her legal team have yet to see the iPad or its contents, which Goldman said is expected to happen during the discovery phase of the trial in November.

In the meantime, Goldman said, he's disappointed with how Southwest Airlines has chosen to handle Steinaker's allegations, calling the company's response "abysmal."

"In my opinion, they have treated it as some sort of joke or a prank between frat boys," Goldman said. "I have no indication that they have taken this as seriously as it needed to be."

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