A woman who fell asleep on a United Airlines flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco woke up to unwanted touching from the off-duty FedEx pilot who was sitting next to her in business class — and it happened more than once, a federal lawsuit said.
Anne Dowling, who was heading home to Denver, dozed off several hours into the July 2016 flight. She was seated next to Monte Wedl, a Tennessee resident who’d been served at least three to four vodka sodas and had taken Ambien, according to the suit filed last week.
Dowling was awoken to Wedl’s hand on the back of her leg, the suit said. She moved his hand and went back to sleep.
The next time she woke up, Wedl’s hand was rubbing her thigh, grabbing her butt and trying to reach into her pants, the suit alleges. She cried “stop,” and he did, Dowling says. But in a third incident, she caught him running his hand up her thigh, the lawsuit said. He allegedly began rubbing her vagina through her clothes, while masturbating underneath a blanket.
Dowling “shot out of her seat” when she realized what Wedl was doing, the suit said.
Dowling planned to get away from Wedl, so she gathered her things. That’s when Wedl said something to the effect of, “I think you’re horny and I’m horny too,” according to the lawsuit.
Dowling asked a flight attendant to change seats, but was told there weren’t any available. The attendant also suggested she talk to Wedl, the suit said.
She then went to the purser (who oversees the flight attendants), according to the lawsuit. Dowling was eventually moved to another seat for the rest of the flight.
A criminal complaint was later filed against Wedl, the suit said. He was acquitted of the charges last June.
The suit says United failed to prevent and protect Dowling from being groped.
A United spokeswoman told NBC News that they can’t comment on the case because of pending litigation. She added that safety is the airline’s “top priority.”
FedEx told NBC News that Wedl hasn’t flown for the company since the allegations were first reported.