"I called my sister, and I was crying profusely," Ashley Barno said of the incident
A California woman is suing American Airlines after she claims an airport employee sent her a plethora of alarming text messages after getting her number off her baggage tag.
Last April, Ashley Barno was getting ready to board a flight at the San Diego International Airport. As she waited in line, Barno began receiving a series of text messages from an unknown number, she told NBC San Diego.
“Hey, Ashley! How are you?” read the first text, according to screen grabs obtained by PEOPLE.
Thinking nothing of it, Barno, who also shared her story with CNN, responded, telling the stranger “Sorry, I’m not sure who this is.”
That’s when the alleged exchange took an unexpected turn.
“BTW I must tell you that you are gorgeous,” the sender wrote, according to the text messages.
“The whole time I kept asking him, ‘Who are you? How do you know who I am? How’d you get my info?'” Barno said she asked, NBC San Diego reported.
According to the text messages, the sender still didn’t identify himself, but instead wrote back “You are looking very gorgeous in that gray top today.”
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After some time, the sender allegedly revealed his name as “Ahmad,” adding that he is on Barno’s exact flight to Chicago.
“I am on board now. Are you going to Chicago too??” Ahmad allegedly asked, according to the screen grabs. “Will you join me? I really like you!! Come join me!!” Ahmad allegedly continued.
Frightened, Barno fired back “Leave me alone!”
Ahmad allegedly ignored Barno’s wishes telling her a “friendship with me will be very beneficial for you. I can always give you good seats, access to lounges and free drinks.”
Barno then texted back “I gave you my number???”
That’s when Ahmad allegedly revealed he had gotten Barno’s contact information “from ur bag tag,” according to the text message thread.
As fear continued to set in, Barno explained to The Washington Post that she called out to a flight attendant for help. After hearing the story, the flight attendant confirmed that Ahmad was an American Airlines employee. Barno later learned that this allegedly wasn’t the first time Ahmad harassed an airline passenger.
The situation quickly escalated with airline managers being notified, which led to Ahmad being escorted off the plane upon arrival in Chicago, Barno told both The Post and NBC San Diego.
“I called my sister, and I was crying profusely because I just felt… I mean, the best way to describe it was, I felt naked in a public place,” Barno told NBC San Diego.
“He had too much information on people, and what he did was not OK, and not acceptable at all,” Barno told NBC San Diego.
Barno explained to The Post that her reason for filing a lawsuit was because American Airlines had allegedly not taken action after she had been calling them for months.
According to her complaint, obtained by PEOPLE, Ahmad did not stop contacting her following the flight and even sent her “sexually-suggestive images.”
American Airlines tells PEOPLE “American Airlines takes the privacy and safety of our customers seriously. We investigating the allegations and took appropriate actions. The employee involved in the complaint is no longer employed at American Airlines.”
“The employee was not on duty for American at the time,” American Airlines added.
Barno’s attorney Joe Samo tells PEOPLE “A victim can be shaken up and traumatized for months after an event. It seems to us that American Airlines felt the situation was resolved when she returned back to San Diego. I don’t believe they realized the emotional effect would last much longer than the threat to her physical safety.”
“No one should respond to phone calls or texts from unknown numbers until they are 100% certain of the identity of the caller,” Samo says.
“Airline employees should know that they should never contact customers outside of their professional relationship. And, that if they do, it would result in immediate termination,” Samo adds.