A 36-year-old American Airlines flight attendant has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to film a teenage girl in an airplane lavatory during a flight from Charlotte to Boston last September, prosecutors have announced.
The incident was flagged by the parents of the victim during the flight, and law enforcement met the aircraft on arrival, but this is the first time that the crew member, identified as Estes Carter Thompson III of Charlotte, has been arrested.
Thompson has been charged with one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor after four more videos were found on Thompson’s Apple iCloud account of young children using an aeroplane lavatory.
During the September 2, 2023 flight, it is alleged that Thompson approached the 14-year-old girl who was lining up to use the bathroom at the back of the aircraft. He told her that the First Class lavatory was free and escorted her to the front of the airplane.
Before she was allowed to use the lavatory, however, Thompson said he needed to wash his hands. He then told her that the lavatory seat was broken.
On entering the bathroom, the victim saw a large ‘defective catering equipment’ sticker taped to the lavatory seat. Concealed under the sticker was an iPhone with the camera peeping out.
The victim wasn’t fooled and took a photo with her own phone and showed it to her parents. The Captain was then notified and law enforcement was requested to meet the aircraft.
During the final phase of the flight, the victim’s father confronted Thompson, who then locked himself in the First Class lavatory. After being questioned by law enforcement, it was discovered that Thompson had apparently reset his iPhone to factory settings.
Prosecutors recovered the other videos from his iCloud account, showing victims aged just seven, nine, 11 and 14 using an airplane bathroom. Additionally, over 50 images of a nine-year-old unaccompanied minor were allegedly found in the same account.
“The deeply disturbing conduct alleged here is something no parent or child should ever have to worry about when they travel,” commented Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy as the charges were announced.
“Mr. Thompson allegedly used his position to prey on and surreptitiously record innocent children, including unaccompanied minors, while in a vulnerable state aboard flights he was working.”
American Airlines say it is cooperating with the investigation.
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.