A passenger is suing United Airlines over a 2016 incident in which she claims she woke to find a fellow business class flyer inappropriately touching her and masturbating under a blanket.
According to a lawsuit filed in a Colorado federal court, United Airlines passenger Anne Dowling immediately recognized some serious red flags from her business class seat mate Monte Wedl on a July 2016 flight from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Anne Dowling says that the cabin crew, however, wasn’t as adept at identifying the potentially lecherous passenger – even after he made inappropriate sexual advances directed at a flight attendant. Dowling says that she eventually paid the price for the crew’s lack of diligence in monitoring the behavior of an allegedly intoxicated FedEx pilot who was off duty at the time.
“United employees served Wedl at least three to four vodka sodas, which he consumed along with the prescription sleep medication Ambien,” according to the claim. “Wedl got out of his seat and approached United’s flight attendant, Eva Yu, and told her that he had been away from home for two months, he missed his wife, and he is horny. Yu instructed him to return to his seat, and he did so.”
Unfortunately, this was by no means the end of Wedl’s misbehavior, according to Dowling. After falling asleep, she says that she awoke on at least three separate occasions to find the off-duty pilot making increasingly more aggressive unwelcome sexual advances.
“Dowling awoke to find Wedl’s hand on the back of her leg near her buttock. She removed his hand and fell back asleep,” the court filing asserts. “Dowling awoke a second time to Wedl’s hand rubbing her thigh, grabbing her butt, and attempting to reach into her pants. She cried ‘stop’ and he withdrew his hand from her body. She asked him what he was doing, and he creepily smiled at her in response. Dowling again went back to sleep.”
Rather than putting an end to the ongoing assault, Dowling says confronting her attacker only seemed to encourage him. She says the situation escalated from there and eventually culminated with a flight attendant sending her back to work things out with the man who she claims repeatedly sexually assaulted her.
“Dowling awoke a third time to Wedl’s hand running up her thigh,” the claim continues. “Wedl forced his hand between Dowling’s body and her own hand. He then firmly began rubbing her vagina through her clothes. At the same time, Wedl was rapidly masturbating underneath his blanket. Dowling shot out of her seat in shock when she realized what was happening and told Wedl to stop. Dowling was gathering her belongings in anticipation of moving seats when Wedl said something to the effect of ‘I think you’re horny and I’m horny too.’”
Dowling says when she reported the assault to a flight attendant, she was told that there were no other seats available and that she should discuss her personal issues with the seat mate who has been harassing her throughout the flight. In June of 2017, Wendl was acquitted of criminal charges related to the onboard incident, but Dowling’s attorneys insist that United Airlines agents were grossly negligent for allowing the situation to develop in the first place and then failing to address the matter in any substantial way.