Southwest Pilots Accused Of Monitoring Hidden Camera Set Up In Aircraft Restroom

Details of a bizarre incident involving two Southwest Airlines pilots and a hidden toilet camera have emerged in a recently filed lawsuit. It claims that the two Southwest pilots live streamed footage of the toilet on board their aircraft to an iPad set up in the cockpit.

A Southwest Boeing 737
According to the lawsuit, two Southwest pilots placed a hidden camera in the toilet of the aircraft they were flying. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

The lawsuit was filed at the federal court for the district of Arizona by Southwest Airlines flight attendant Renee Steinaker. It relates to the events of 25 February 2017, when Steinaker was shocked to accidentally stumble upon a live stream of the aircraft’s toilet on an iPad in the cockpit.

The two pilots accused of setting up the camera, Terry Graham and Ryan Russell have not received any punishment for the incident. As reported by USA Today, they both currently still fly for Southwest Airlines.

How did Steinaker discover the hidden toilet camera?

Back on 27 February 2017, Steinaker, Graham and Russell were all on shift for Flight 1088 as it traveled from Pittsburgh to Phoenix. Steinaker was called to the cockpit to act as cover for Graham while he went to use the toilet.

Bizarrely, she recalls seeing an iPad attached to the windscreen which appeared to show a real-time video of Graham using the toilet.

A Southwest Boeing 737
Steinaker has alleged that she was treated unfairly at work after reporting the incident. Photo: LoadedAaron via Flickr

She says Russell immediately became nervous when he realized she had seen the video feed. In an attempt to legitimize it, he said it was a new ‘top secret’ camera system which was being installed on all Southwest’s aircraft as a safety precaution.

Steinaker, however, didn’t believe Russell’s story. Her attorney, Ronald L. M. Goldman, who is representing her in this case, has described the incident in an interview with USA Today.

“They led her to believe that she and others had been filmed — had been videotaped if you will — while they were using the lavatory. It’s really hard to imagine a more outrageous kind of conduct.”

Not only did Steinaker not believe the two pilots’ explanation for the video feed, she says their behavior for the rest of the day was off.

When the plane landed, they “disembarked, leaving the aircraft unattended by piloting staff”, which is not the usual procedure, and also left a firearm unattended in the cockpit.

What is the lawsuit trying to achieve?

After the incident occurred, Steinaker reported it to higher-ups within the company. But no action was taken against Graham and Russell.

In fact, quite the opposite happened. After being told to keep quiet about the hidden toilet camera for the sake of not scaring away passengers, Steinaker says she started receiving peculiar treatment at work. This included being stalked and monitored by managers, as well as being given increasing numbers of performance audits.

Southwest 737-700 N785SW in "Canyon blue" livery at BWI airport.
Pilots putting hidden cameras in aircraft toilets would be a PR nightmare for Southwest. Photo: PlanespotterA320

It appears that this is the crux of the lawsuit, not necessarily the fact that the pilots may have placed hidden cameras on the plane, but the unfair treatment Renee Steinaker received afterward.

As far as the airline itself goes, Southwest Airlines has released a press statement on the matter:

“The safety and security of our employees and customers is Southwest’s uncompromising priority. As such, Southwest does not place cameras in the lavatories of our aircraft. At this time, we have no other comment on the pending litigation.”