Ex-American Airlines attendant arrested for recording minors in flights’ bathrooms

By Linh Le   January 20, 2024 | 04:42 pm PT
Estes Carter Thompson III, a 37-year-old former flight attendant with American Airlines, was arrested in Virginia following allegations of recording a 14-year-old girl in an airplane bathroom.
An aircraft from American Airlines. Photo from American Airlines Instagram

An aircraft from American Airlines. Photo from American Airlines' Instagram

The arrest occurred on Thursday after a thorough investigation into the incident, which happened on Sep. 2, 2023, as the Daily Mail reports. Further investigation suggests that Thompson might have recorded at least four other minor females on various flights.

A 14-year-old girl, using the lavatory on a flight from Charlotte to Boston, found a phone taped under the toilet, hidden by stickers labeled "INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT." She promptly told her parents, who notified other flight attendants and the captain, leading to police involvement when the plane landed.

According to the Washington Post, police discovered evidence of Thompson recording four other minors, ranging from seven to 14 years old, in lavatories on earlier flights. Investigators also found in Thompson’s iCloud account over 50 images of an unaccompanied nine-year-old girl, including close-ups of her face as she slept. Allegedly, the account also contained "images of AI-generated child pornography."

Thompson is charged with attempted sexual exploitation of children and possessing child sexual abuse images. Reports indicate he could face 15-30 years in prison for the first charge and between five and 20 years for the second. He also faces possible lifelong supervision, a $250,000 fine, and restitution to the victims.

His case will later be presented in federal court in Boston. Currently, Thompson remains in custody awaiting his initial court appearance.

In response to these allegations, American Airlines, on Friday, stated that Thompson has been removed from duty since the Sep. 2023 incident and has not worked since then. The airline stressed its dedication to the safety and security of its customers and employees, confirming its full cooperation with law enforcement in this ongoing investigation.

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