“Hey, Ashley! How are you?” the creepy string of unsolicited text messages began. “I must tell you that you are gorgeous… you are looking very gorgeous in that gray top today.”
These are the messages that Ashley Barno claims she received from an American Airlines employee last year, as she was passing through the San Diego International Airport, and even while she was seated on her subsequent flight.
According to her lawsuit against the carrier, she learned the off-duty employee, identified as "Ahmad," took her contact information from the luggage tag on her carry-on bag and used that information to harass her via text message.
After investigating the allegations, a spokesperson for American has revealed that the staffer is no longer employed with the airline.
In April, Barno was waiting in Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport to board her flight to Chicago when the mysterious texts began trickling in, NBC San Diego reports.
“Hey, Ashley! How are you?” read the first message from an unknown number.
“I’m good, thank you! “Sorry, I’m not sure who this is,” Barno replied.
“BTW I must tell you that you are gorgeous,” the mystery person continued, ignoring the woman’s request to know who was contacting her.
“The whole time I kept asking him, ‘Who are you? How do you know who I am? How’d you get my info?’” Barno told NBC.
“You are looking very gorgeous in that gray top today,” another message read.
As Barno looked around, the sender allegedly revealed his name was “Ahmad.” The off-duty worker added that he worked for American Airlines.
"Just knowing that he knew what I looked like, and that we were in an enclosed plane and that there’s no way out... really scared me."
Barno claims that “Ahmad” continued texting her after she boarded the plane and that the unwanted messages made her feel increasingly uncomfortable.
“I am on board now. Are you going to Chicago too?” the man wrote.
“Will you join me? I really like you!! Come on join me!!" other messages read.
Barno immediately ordered "Ahmad" to leave her alone.
“Just knowing that he knew what I looked like, and that we were in an enclosed plane and that there’s no way out, like really, really scared me,” she said. "Ahmad," meanwhile, remained determined to communicate with her.
“OK it’s up to you, but friendship with me will be very beneficial for you,” the man offered. “I can always give you good seats, access to the lounges, and free drinks.”
Frustrated, Barno asked a flight attendant for help, explaining the situation. The crew member reportedly became “furious” with the man's behavior, and confirmed that “Ahmad” worked for the airline.
Barno praised the flight attendant who intervened as “amazingly helpful." And when the flight ultimately landed in the Windy City, American Airlines employees escorted “Ahmad” off the plane, NBC reports.
Shaken, Barno was upset to later learn that “Ahmad” allegedly took her name, cell phone number and address from the luggage tag on her carry-on bag — personal information that was not concealed on the label.
The plaintiff now claims that “Ahmad” harassed at least one other passenger, per the outlet.
Though an American Airlines employee called her after the incident, Barno alleges that the carrier never replied to subsequent requests for more information.
“I tried for several months to work this out amicably, but I think they didn’t take it seriously, and no one responded to me,” Barno said. She has since hired an attorney and filed a suit against the airline for negligent hiring, sexual harassment and other alleged misconduct.
“We’re doing this to send a message to big corporations that this behavior is not acceptable,” Barno’s attorney Joe Samo said. “They have to train their employees better and take better precautions to make sure these things don’t happen again.”
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the carrier offered Fox News the following statement:
“American Airlines takes the privacy and safety of our customers seriously. We investigated the allegations and took appropriate action,” a representative said on Tuesday. “The employee involved in the complaint is no longer employed at American Airlines.”