FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A pilot with Southwest Airlines sued the company, her union and a former colleague who pleaded guilty last year to exposing himself during a flight.
According to The Associated Press, Christine Janning, the pilot, alleges that Southwest Airlines retaliated against her after she reported her colleague, Michael Haak to them and the FBI by grounding her. Haak was still employed after the report even though he had other alleged sexual misconduct incidents filed against him previously.
Janning also alleges that the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association had “conspired” with Southwest and did not help her, according to the AP. She is also suing Haak for sexual assault.
According to the AP, Haak pleaded guilty last year to committing a lewd, incidence or obscene act, which is a federal misdemeanor. Haak got sentenced to probation.
Haak’s attorney spoke with the AP on Wednesday and said that his client had “disrobed only after Janning encouraged him to,” and nothing else had happened. The AP said they also reached out to Southwest and the union but did not hear back.
The lawsuit was filed last week in Orange County, Florida, in which Janning said she had never met Haak until August 2020, when she was his co-pilot on a flight, according to the AP. Janning said Haak used his “seniority rights” to bump another pilot the day before because he had seen a woman was scheduled to co-pilot.
When Janning reached for the cruising altitude on the plane, Haak allegedly told her it was his last flight as he was set to retire and he wanted to do something. Janning said he shut the door, put the plane on autopilot, turned on pornography and “committed a lewd act for 30 minutes,” according to the AP. He also allegedly took photos and videos of himself.
Haak’s attorney told the AP that Janning was the one who asked Haak what he wanted to do before retiring and he had replied that he wanted to fly naked. Haak’s attorney also said that Janning had allegedly told him to go ahead, and made sexual advances.
According to the AP, Janning later learned that the flight she had with Haak wasn’t his last one because he flew for another three weeks afterward. She also apparently didn’t report the incident right away — instead, she did so about three months later but was told that since Haak had retired, the case was closed. Janning then went to the FBI, who ended up charging him.
Janning said that since she reported the incident to the FBI, Southwest allegedly grounded her and stranded her in Denver, Colorado. According to the AP, the FBI had to book her a flight back to Florida on United Airlines. Janning claimed that a manager at Southwest had also sent a memo to a handful of employees discrediting her flying abilities. Janning said she went to the union but they allegedly did nothing.
The AP said that it doesn’t normally identify people who are victims of sex crimes but in this case, Janning, through her attorney, agreed to use her name.
No further information has been released, including any updates on additional hearings.
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