Southwest Airlines Denies Allegation That Pilots Hid Camera in Bathroom on Plane

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
October 28, 2019 Updated: October 28, 2019

Southwest Airlines is disputing an allegation that pilots hid a camera in a plane bathroom, calling it “an inappropriate attempt at humor.”

In a statement sent to news outlets, Southwest denied the allegation and said it was ready to “vigorously defend the lawsuit.”

“When the incident happened two years ago, we investigated the allegations and addressed the situation with the crew involved,” a company spokesperson said in the statement.

“We can confirm from our investigation that there was never a camera in the lavatory; the incident was an inappropriate attempt at humor which the company did not condone.”

The response came after Renee Steinaker, a Phoenix-based Southwest flight attendant, filed a lawsuit over the weekend alleging she saw two pilots livestreaming footage from a bathroom while on a flight on Feb. 27, 2017.

Southwest policy requires two crew members in the cockpit at all times, so Steinaker went into the cockpit so Capt. Tery Graham could use the restroom.

Steinaker said she spotted an iPad mounted to the windshield near the captain’s seat and alleged that she saw a livestream from one of the lane’s bathrooms on the device. She saw Graham in the lavatory, according to the suit.

She claimed Ryan Russell, the co-pilot, looked distraught and told her the cameras were a new, secret security measure.

“They led her to believe that she and others had been filmed—had been videotaped if you will—while they were using the lavatory. It’s really hard to imagine a more outrageous kind of conduct,” aviation attorney Ronald L.M. Goldman, who is representing Steinaker, told the Arizona Republic.

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Browsing images online on an iPad in a file photograph. fancycrave1/Pixabay)

Steinaker snapped a picture of the iPad with her phone to preserve evidence of what happened.

Steinaker reported what took place to the airline but said she was told not to speak about the incident because if she did, Southwest would lose customers. Further, the suit alleged, the pilot and co-pilot were allowed to continue flying for the company.

“In my view, Southwest Airlines has treated this as ‘how dare they report it’ rather than ‘thank you for letting us know,'” Goldman told the Republic.

Goldman added in a statement to the Associated Press: “The cockpit of a commercial airliner is not a playground for peeping toms.”

The initial version of the suit alleged Steinaker and her husband, David, who is also a Southwest flight attendant, were discriminated against, harassed, and retaliated against after Steinaker reported what happened but a later version didn’t include those allegations, the outlet reported.

The suit said the allegations would be restored if the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission approved the Steinakers suing over those allegations.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.