The wife of a former FBI agent who worked in the Joint Terrorism Task Force claims an American Airlines flight attendant sneered and mocked her as she was locked inside an airplane lavatory with her three-year-old child before another crew member accused them of causing a terrorist incident.
The wild claims are outlined in a new lawsuit against American Airlines, which was filed in a Brooklyn District Court last week. Yasbleidy Giraldo, a mother of Middle Eastern and Latino descent, has accused the airline of religious and racial discrimination and is demanding unspecified damages.
Giraldo says flight attendants picked her and the rest of her family out because they have Middle Eastern features, and Muslim surnames and were speaking Farsi during the flight from Fort Lauderdale to New York JFK last September.
The family were sat in the first row directly behind First Class and, noticing that other people were using the lavatory at the front of the plane, Giraldo says she also attempted to use the First Class lavatory to change her youngest daughter’s diaper.
American Airlines doesn’t have a policy that prohibits coach passengers from using the First Class lavatory but the flight attendant serving that cabin refused to let Giraldo and her daughter use the lavatory and sent her to queue up at the back of the plane.
While waiting to use the lavatory, Giraldo says another flight attendant confirmed that all the onboard restrooms were available for all passengers, but she used the lavatory at the back of the plane and then returned to her seat.
A short time later, however, Giraldo says her three-year-old urgently needed to use the bathroom so she rushed him into the First Class lavatory, bypassing the flight attendant in that cabin.
Once inside, she heard the door lock from the outside. She tried to open the door but it wouldn’t open. From the other side, the flight attendant “sneered through the door, ‘oh, are you locked in, do you need someone to open the door ma’am?'”.
Giraldo suffers from severe claustrophobia and anxiety when flying and says she got extremely upset at being locked in the bathroom. She started to bang on the door, but noticing that this had “traumatized” her son, she “gathered all her strength and tried to contain herself to comfort him”.
Eventually, the flight attendant unlocked door and the pair returned to their seats only to then be “scolded” by the supervising flight attendant who claimed they had been responsible for a “terrorist incident”.
The flight attendant allegedly wagged her finger and “screamed” at Giraldo, warning her that the pilot had called in a terrorist alert.
On arrival in New York, police officers escorted the family off the plane and subjected them to 15 minutes of interrogation before letting them go.
Giraldo believes the pretext of calling in a ‘terrorist incident’ was the fact that she and her family have Middle Eastern features and spoke Farsi to one another. She notes that other passengers or non-Middle Eastern appearance were allowed to use the First Class lavatory without challenge.
The family say they didn’t receive a meaningful response to a formal complaint they submitted on the American Airlines website.
Giraldo’s husband gave up a promising career in law to join the FBI’s joint terrorism taskforce to ‘change the negative narrative against Muslim Americans that occurred after 9/11″. He says he has “devoted his career and life” to helping the FBI.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.