A Phoenix-based flight attendant has sued Southwest Airlines, accusing the carrier of retaliation after she reported she had seen two pilots live-streaming video from inside the plane’s restroom to an iPad in the cockpit.
Renee Steinaker alleged that in February of 2017, Capt. Terry Graham asked her to come to the cockpit so he could use the restroom on a flight from Phoenix to Pittsburgh, according to The Arizona Republic.
This is standard procedure since Southwest Airlines policy requires two flight crew members in the cockpit at all times. In those few minutes Steinaker staffed the cockpit with co-pilot Ryan Russell, she alleged that she spotted an iPad mounted to the windshield. On it was a stream of Graham in the lavatory.
The filing stated that Russell, in a panic, told Steinaker that the cameras were a new security measure instituted by the airline, which she knew was not true. According to the filing, Steinaker took a photo of the iPad with her phone to document it.
Additionally, Steinaker’s suit alleged that upon landing, Graham violated airline protocol and “disembarked, leaving the aircraft unattended by piloting staff." It claimed Graham "left a loaded firearm unattended in the cockpit, a violation of FAA regulations."
Steinaker and other crew members reported the incident. Steinaker claimed she was told to keep quiet about the incident, and both pilots were allowed to keep flying the next day and they are still flying aircraft for Southwest to this day.
"If this got out, if this went public, no one, I mean no one, would ever fly our airline again,” Steinaker said she was warned.
Steinaker’s husband, David, is also a flight attendant for Southwest. The suit alleged the Steinakers have faced retaliation through stalking and being monitored by managers “in a threatening and bizarre manner.” It stated the Steinakers were subject to an increased number of performance audits.
A representative for Southwest Airlines emailed a statement to The Arizona Republic:
"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. At this time, we have no other comment on the pending litigation."