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This Bathroom Peeping Tom Story Keeps Getting Weirder

This Bathroom Peeping Tom Story Keeps Getting Weirder
Meg Butler

A flight attendant says that Southwest crew members were filming passengers in the bathroom of a Boeing 737 bound from Pittsburgh to Phoenix. Southwest says it was all just a misunderstanding. But this disturbing incident of he-said-she-said gets more disturbing by the day. 

Steinaker: They Were Filming in the Bathroom

Around two and a half hours into a 2017 Phoenix-bound flight, the flight’s captain, Terry Graham, asked longtime Southwest Airlines flight attendant Renee Steinaker to enter the cockpit so that he could use the bathroom. The FAA requires that two crew members remain in the cockpit at all times, so Steinaker staffed the cockpit with her co-pilot Ryan Russell while Graham relieved himself.

Upon entering the cockpit, Steinaker noticed an iPad, which appeared to show live footage of Captain Graham in the plane’s bathroom.

According to Steinaker’s attorney, who spoke with BuzzFeed, Steinaker asked Russell whether the camera was live-streaming from the bathroom. He admitted that it was and told her that it was hidden where “no one would ever find it,” and then asked Steineker not to tell anyone about the camera or recordings because they were on the “downlow.”

When Steinaker was visibly horrified, her lawyer continued, Russell then told her that the cameras were a “top-secret security measure” and a new feature in the bathrooms of all Southwest Airlines’ 737-800s. Steinaker did not believe him, took a photo of the iPad and informed Russell that she would be reporting the incident.

According to court documents, Steinaker claims that when Graham returned from the restroom, he tried to hide the iPad and refused to answer her questions about it. Then, 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.

Southwest Airlines: It Was All a Joke

“Southwest will vigorously defend the lawsuit,” the airline said in a statement to the Arizona Republic on October 25th, shortly after news of the lawsuit broke. “When the incident happened two years ago, we investigated the allegations and addressed the situation with the crew involved. 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.”

According to Southwest, the flight crew took the opportunity of Steinaker entering the cockpit to play a video, which had been taken at an earlier date, of the captain entering the lavatory appearing as if it were occurring in realtime. Southwest went on to say that they investigated the incident and reported no cameras were found on the aircraft.

“No One Would Ever Fly Our Airline Again”

On October 26th, Steinaker’s lawyer revealed even more information to BuzzFeed. According to him, when Steinaker and the other crewmembers reported the incident—he says that they immediately reported the incident to the supervisor at the gate and 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—a supervisor told her not to tell anyone about the incident because “if this got out, if this went public, no one, I mean no one, would ever fly our airline again.”

On Monday, Steinaker participated in a TV interview to discuss the systematic harassment she says he faced from Southwest.

The 21-year flight attendant veteran of the Dallas-based carrier alleges that she and her husband, who is also a flight attendant for Southwest, faced a pattern of systematic harassment after she first reported the incident along with other crew members who reported the incident. The harassment she alleges includes retaliation from supervisors, stepped-up performance audits, and a suspiciously high number of “random” drug and alcohol tests.

“With my every being, every bit of myself, I knew this was wrong and I could not let something like this go,” she explained. “I knew it was the right thing to do to report it. I thought I was safely able to report this and that it would be handled.”

He Said, She Said

No matter the outcome, this story is disturbing. If Southwest’s version of events is true, two male co-workers conspiring to show a female co-worker a video of one of them urinating, while on the job, is deeply problematic. If Steinaker’s version of events is true, it’s even more unsettling.

And while it feels easier to believe that an employee was a victim of a malicious prank than to believe that pilots are filming passengers in the bathroom, it might be relevant to remember that, in July of 2017 (just a few months after Steinaker reported the February incident) a Southwest Airlines employee was arrested after police say he placed a hidden camera in a restroom at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). And, just a few months ago, a passenger on a United flight found a hidden camera in the first-class bathroom.

View Comments (4)

4 Comments

  1. thepixinator

    November 6, 2019 at 5:46 am

    And… the sexual harassers will skate by without repercussions. Clearly the captain and first officer planned this out in advance to subject female employees to views of them peeing. If the cams were a security measure, either the FAs would know about them (most likely scenario), or the Captain and first officer would take better care to secure the iPad. Why do grown-ass men continually need to act like delinquent 14-year-olds?

  2. Global321

    November 6, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Must have been a hoax.

    Pilots risking their careers to place a camera in an aircraft bathroom then sending a wireless feed to the cockpit is a bit far fetched. Consider the possible true story…

    1. Not one, but two, creepy pilots, who were (a) flying together that were into this thing, (2) had the technical expertise to install a hidden bluetooth camera and sync it to an iPad AND (3) were willing to risk their careers and possibly jail and (4) were so creepy they showed it to a FA vs just closing the iPad before the FA came into the cockpit…

    OR

    2. They were playing an (in bad taste) prank on a co-worker.

    It you think choice #1 is true, then you should also know, Elvis is still alive in area 51 hanging with aliens! :)

  3. milesandmoremiles

    November 6, 2019 at 7:41 am

    How are the events in SEA and on the UA flight at all relevant?

  4. unregistered1

    November 6, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    “(2) had the technical expertise to install a hidden bluetooth camera and sync it to an iPad”

    What would make you think this is any more difficult than setting up a Ring doorbell?

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