A federal lawsuit was filed against Delta Air Lines on Tuesday accusing flight attendants of failing to intervene after a male passenger, according to the lawsuit, was served at least 10 alcoholic drinks and then groped a mother and her 16-year-old daughter.
The plaintiff in the suit, filed in the Eastern District of New York, was identified only as the parent of the teenager. According to the filing, the girl and her mother were traveling to Athens, Greece, from New York City on a nearly nine-hour flight last year when the incident occurred.
A woman who was assigned the seat next to her daughter, who was in the middle, switched with an unidentified man in order to sit next to her husband, the suit said. The family is referred to by initials throughout, with "N.A." referring to the girl while her mother is identified as "A.A."
Before the plane even departed, the man allegedly asked the flight attendant for a "vodka on the rocks."
"Over the first three hours of the flight, the Delta flight attendants served the intoxicated Delta passenger approximately 10 vodka on ice drinks," the lawsuit said.
The male passenger appeared visibly intoxicated, slurring his speech and continually attempting to get the teenager's attention the more he intoxicated he became, the lawsuit said. When the girl asked him to stop talking to her, the man became "aggressive" and yelled at her.
He then demanded to know where she lived, identifying himself as a Connecticut resident, and wanted to know her address, according to the filing.
"N.A. was frightened by his personal questions, tone and body language and turned her back to him to tell her mother that she was scared," the suit said. "When N.A. turned away from him, the intoxicated Delta passenger began grabbing N.A., putting his hands on her back."
The girl's mother also intervened, begging the man to leave her daughter alone.
They both told the man that the girl was a minor and still in high school, but he reached over and "began pulling and pushing" at the mother's arm, according to the suit. The mother spoke to a flight attendant, saying the passenger was "very drunk and was making both her and her 16-year-old daughter feel unsafe by yelling, making obscene gestures and touching her daughter inappropriately."
According to the suit, the flight attendant simply told her to "be patient" before walking away.
When the man went to the bathroom, the girl's mother once again spoke with the flight attendant and pleaded with staff to stop serving him alcohol. But upon his return the man had a glass of red wine with him, according to the lawsuit.
Later on, the girl laid her head in her mother's lap in an effort to ignore the man when he allegedly put his fingers underneath her shirt and up her back.
"N.A. was frozen as she felt the intoxicated Delta passenger’s hand fingering her bra strap and moving over her body," the suit said. "N.A. was trembling, petrified and crying and finally got the courage to jump out of the seat and out of his reach."
The man then put his hand on the mother's thigh and moved "toward her vagina," the suit said. The girl and her mother then spoke to both the head flight attendant onboard the flight and the pilot, who both, according to the lawsuit, said there was nothing they could do.
Another passenger saw both the mother and daughter crying and offered to switch seats to sit next to the drunken passenger after learning about the situation, according to the lawsuit.
Despite the flight attendant telling the family she had asked for volunteers to switch with them, the passenger who offered to change seats told the girl and her mother he had not been asked or heard an announcement for volunteers.
The man was allowed to leave when the plane landed in Greece and no police were called despite the mother's request that authorities meet them in Athens, the lawsuit said.
Delta declined to comment on the litigation but a spokesperson told NBC News in a statement Sunday that the airline has "zero tolerance for customers who engage in inappropriate or unlawful behavior."
"Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and our people," the spokesperson said.
The lawsuit, which seeks $2 million in damages, accuses Delta of violating New York's human rights law by failing to protect them from sexual misconduct. It also alleges negligence by Delta staff in continuing to serve the passenger despite Federal Aviation Administration policy on serving intoxicated passengers.