Ashley Barno was waiting to board an American Airlines flight from San Diego to Chicago when the texts flooded in. An unknown sender said hello, complimented Barno's appearance, and noted he'd been watching her at San Diego International. "You are looking very gorgeous in grey top today!!" read one message, per the Washington Post. Another sent after Barno boarded the plane told her the sender, "Ahmad," was also on board. "You want to sit next to me?" he said. "Just looking for one chance to prove my self!! I will be very respectful to you always." The texts continued long after Barno replied, "Leave me alone." Now, eight months later, she says she has trouble eating, sleeping, socializing, and traveling as a result of sexual harassment and stalking by an American Airlines employee who took her number from a luggage tag.
"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," Barno tells KNSD. Though she alerted a flight attendant and saw the man escorted off the plane by security in Chicago, she says American Airlines failed to respond to her repeated requests for information after an initial phone call. Having learned that the employee had similarly harassed another passenger, she says she wanted assurances that he'd been properly disciplined. "I tried for several months to work this out amicably, but ... no one responded to me," says Barno, who is suing the airline for negligent hiring and other wrongdoing. A spokesman responds that the airline "investigated the allegations and took appropriate action." He adds the individual is no longer employed at American Airlines. (Read more American Airlines stories.)