Would you rather have your lost luggage returned to you or be stalked by a stranger who swiped your number?
Passengers are now faced with another concern adding to the stresses of flying, and they may think twice about leaving information on luggage tags.
A woman who had traveled using American Airlines feared for her safety when an employee started stalking her by using the contact information obtained from her luggage tag.
Ashley Barno, who had been waiting for her flight at San Diego's International Airport, told NBC News she received over 100 texts from the employee, including sexually explicit images.
But things escalated when she found herself on the same four-hour flight with her creepy admirer.
San Diego passenger sues American Airlines, says employee stalked and harassed her https://t.co/Sr14lP84Y2— Los Angeles Times (@Los Angeles Times)1579144680.0
Now she is suing the airline after experiencing lasting distress.
Here is a clip of the NBC 7 news report.
She began receiving the texts from the unknown sender back in April while waiting at Terminal 2 for a flight bound for Chicago.
The first text read:
"Hey, Ashley! How are you?"
After not recognizing the phone number, she politely responded:
"I'm good, thank you! Sorry, I'm not sure who this is."
The texts continued without the sender identifying himself.
"BTW I must tell you that you are gorgeous."
@HuffPost Dam it’s not safe to fill out those airline tags anymore....they can just rip off your personal info for id theft too....— Hillary Lou (@Hillary Lou)1579138300.0
Barno told the news outlet:
"The whole time I kept asking him, 'Who are you? How do you know who I am? How'd you get my info?"
The next disturbing text indicated Barno was being watched.
"You are looking very gorgeous in that gray top today."
@ABC https://t.co/na1fIVCboI— Manny Flores (@Manny Flores)1579037494.0
When she looked around the boarding area, she spotted the sender who identified himself as "Ahmad."
He confirmed he worked for American Airlines. The unsolicited texts continued even as she boarded the plane.
One of them was particularly unnerving.
"I am on board now. Are you going to Chicago too??"
"Will you join me? I really like you!! Come on join me!!"
@ThePerezHilton That’s frightening !— Millie Rivera (@Millie Rivera)1579122219.0
@ThePerezHilton CREEPY— Silva demirdjian (@Silva demirdjian)1579159190.0
"Not ok! Not cool. Leave me alone."
"Ahmed" ignored her request to stop and said she will benefit from having a friendship with him.
"Ok it's 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 drinks."
@PerezHilton Wow. They just might stop giving jobs to dudes for the airport due to ppl like him & I don't blame 'em.— 🥀🐇₲ɾɑղԵ🧕🏽📖 (@🥀🐇₲ɾɑղԵ🧕🏽📖)1579123267.0
@PerezHilton It’s kinda scary because he probably has access to her address as well but why keep engaging in conversation. Just report it.— Carlos Rodriguez (@Carlos Rodriguez)1579122180.0
Barno immediately informed a flight attendant, who confirmed "Ahmed" was an employee of the airline, and was assured she would not be harassed any further.
The flight attendant was "furious" about "Ahmed's" behavior and alerted airline managers who arranged to have the stalker escorted from the plane upon landing in Chicago.
Barno said the experience was terrifying and made her feel like she was "naked" in public.
"I got off the plane, too. I called my sister, and I was crying profusely because I just felt… I mean, the best way to describe it was, I felt naked in a public place."
"Ahmed" may have been close by when he copied or took a photo of her phone number from her luggage tag, which did not have a flap to cover the information.
Barno later learned this was not the first time "Ahmed" has harassed people. He had similarly stalked at least one other passenger.
After not hearing from American Airlines about any disciplinary action against "Ahmed," she hired an attorney and is now suing for negligent hiring, sexual harassment and stalking.
"I tried for several months to work this out amicably, but I think they didn't take it seriously, and no one responded to me."
Attorney Joe Samo is working with Barno to send a message out to big corporations about unacceptable behavior.
"They have to train their employees better and take better precautions to make sure these things don't happen again."
American Airlines spokesman Joshua Freed said the employee is no longer working for the company.
"American Airlines takes the privacy and safety of our customers very seriously."
"While we can't discuss details about this individual case, we investigated the allegations and took appropriate action."
Barno advised other passengers to have covered luggage tags to prevent a similar situation.
She also shared a tip she learned from a flight attendant that un-tagged bags are opened by airlines so they can search for the owner's information.
Samo thinks the airline was not taking Barno's complaint seriously.
He told the New York Daily News:
"A victim can be shaken up and traumatized for months after an event."
"It seems to us that American Airlines felt the situation was resolved when she returned safely back to San Diego."
"I don't believe they realized the emotional effect would last much longer than the threat of her physical safety."