Pilot Sues Southwest Airlines After Captain Exposes Himself During Flight

The tailplane of a parked Southwest Airlines plane.
Runner1928, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – A Southwest Airlines pilot is suing the airline, her union and a former aircrew member after an incident during which the ex-Captain deadlatched the cockpit door and stripped naked in front for her.

Now retired, the man in question pleased guilty last year to charges of exposing himself to the female first officer and proceeding to watch pornography on a laptop during the flight from Philadelphia to Orlando, Florida on August 10 2020.

Michael Haak (60) was sentenced to one year’s probation for the federal misdemeanour and was subject to a $5,000 fine. Federal prosecutors had stated in a release at the time that First Officer Christine Janning had not previously met Haak before the flight incident.

Their statement last year said that after the aircraft had reached cruising altitude, Haak had undressed himself and proceeded to watch pornography on a laptop in the cockpit.

As the flight continued, Haak further engaged in inappropriate conduct in the cockpit, as the first officer continued to perform her duties as an assigned aircrew member, the statement read.

In this week’s report by AP News, Janning is now suing Southwest Airlines who she alleges grounded her in a retaliation move after she reported Michael Haak to the company. She is also suing Haak for sexual assault.

Although Haak is now retired, he remained employed by the airline after the reported incident. Janning has also sued the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association who she alleges behaved conspiratorially with the airline and refused to support her.

The lawsuit was filed in Orange County, Florida last week. In it, Janning affirms that she had not met Haak prior to the subject flight, and that he had told her that it was his final flight and he “wanted to do something before retirement.”

She confirmed that he bolted the cockpit door before proceeding to undress, watch pornography on a laptop and preformed a lewd act for 30 minutes while photographing himself.

During his sentencing hearing last year, Haak described the incident as a “consensual prank” that got out of hand. Janning’s attorney has stated that she did not encourage Haak, nor did she make any advances.

Despite his claim to Janning that the Orlando flight was his final flight, Haak continued with the airline as aircrew for a further three weeks before retiring.

Janning delayed reporting the incident to an airline employee relations investigator for 3 months, due to her concern that her boss had disparaged her to another male colleague previously.

When Janning was subsequently informed that her report had been closed by the airline due to Haak’s retirement, she took the case to the FBI. She has alleged that, as retaliation for her action, she was then grounded by the airline for three months.

Southwest Airlines has denied Janning’s allegations. A trial date is yet to be set.

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