Southwest Pilots Accused of Watching In-Flight Bathroom Video Cameras

It gets weirder: an unsupervised firearm is also involved

Southwest Airlines
A new lawsuit accuses two Southwest Airlines pilots of some seriously creepy behavior.
Roland Arhelger/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / October 28, 2019 7:00 am

When Southwest Airlines flight attendant Renee Steinaker visited the cockpit of the flight she was working on in early 2017, she expected to see the flight crew there, going about their typical in-flight activities. She was certainly not expecting to see an iPad showing what appeared to be live video from one of the plane’s bathrooms.

That’s just the beginning of an unsettling account of a bizarre series of interactions miles above the surface of the earth, en route to Phoenix. The New York Times has the story, as Steinaker subsequently filed a lawsuit against the airline, accusing them of “emotional distress, negligence, invasion of privacy and sexual harassment.”

According to the article, Steinaker was asked to step into the cockpit for security reasons when the flight’s captain, Terry Graham, needed to take a bathroom break. There, she saw the iPad and asked co-pilot Ryan Russell about it. 

When questioned, Ms. Steinaker said, Mr. Russell admitted the video was from a functioning live-stream camera installed in the lavatory. He told Ms. Steinaker that cameras were a top-secret security measure that had been installed in the lavatories in all the airline’s 737-800 planes, the lawsuit alleges.

Southwest Airlines denies that these high-tech security cameras exist, and said in a statement that “[t]he incident was an inappropriate attempt at humor, which the company did not condone.”

One more detail to make the whole thing even weirder? Upon arriving in Phoenix, Graham and Russell left the plane quickly. Graham, however, is a Federal Flight Deck Officer — and he “left a loaded firearm unattended in the cockpit, the lawsuit alleges, in violation of Federal Aviation Administration regulations.”

The whole thing makes for a harrowing read, and may well leave you feeling a bit paranoid the next time you use a bathroom when flying. 

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