DURHAM, N.C. — A Durham woman and her 14-year-old daughter were kicked off a plane and the mother was arrested after a disagreement with a flight attendant. The woman says the airline refused to clean vomit off their seats or relocate them. Now, the woman has filed a complaint Thursday for more than $55 million in damages.
The defendants are listed as Frontier Airlines Inc., Indigo Parners LLC, ABC Corporation 1 through 4, an unknown woman referred to as Jane Doe and unknown men known as John Doe 1 through 10.
According to the complaint, Rosetta Swinney and teenager daughter were forced off a Frontier flight from Las Vegas to Raleigh, North Carolina, after “they refused to clean someone else’s vomit from a seatback, floor and armrest.”
Swinney was arrested and jailed while her daughter was put in Nevada’s Child Protective Service.
The woman also accuses the company of putting out a false statement about what happened, further humiliating her.
The mother and daughter were set to fly back to Raleigh on Frontier Airline Flight 2066 after attending a wedding in Las Vegas.
Crews announced the flight was delayed by 20 minutes to clean the aircraft, and after a wait, Swinney and her daughter boarded.
The 14-year-old was putting her carry-on in the overhead compartment when she “felt a liquid substance on her hands,” according to the complaint.
After smelling it, the girl determined it was someone else’s vomit.
That’s when they noticed the floor was covered in it and it was on the seatback tray and in the seat pocket, according to the complaint.
Swinney pressed the flight attendant call button and told the attendant, Jane Doe, that there was vomit on the seat and, now, on her daughter.
The attendant reportedly handed the woman Clorox wipes and rubber gloves so the passengers could clean the mess themselves.
The complaint states Swinney asked for napkins, but the attendant turned her down and told her, “It’s better than nothing.”
The woman and her daughter moved into the aisle, expecting the flight attendant to clean the mess, but the attendant said it wasn’t her job.
Another passenger asked, “Then whose job was it to clean the vomit?”
The attendant shrugged and walked away, the complaint alleges.
After waiting 10 minutes for someone to address the issue, Swinney went to the front of the plane and asked for the attendant’s supervisor and her name.
The attendant reportedly told her not to worry about her name because she was not going to fly on this flight.
The mother and daughter moved themselves to different seats, but were later told by another woman to get off the plane. Swinney refused, saying that she’d done nothing wrong.
Law enforcement was called in and, after explaining the situation, “the officers sympathized” but told her to get off all the same.
Because Swinney refused to get off, everyone was told to get off the plane. A voice over the intercom said, “Because of one rude passenger, we are asking everyone to deplane,” the complaint alleges.
When Swinney finally got off, she was handcuffed in front of her 14-year-old daughter and other passengers.
According to the complaint, after Swinney was arrested, Flight 2066 was delayed for about an hour so cleaning crews could deal with a biohazard on the plane, the same that the woman had complained about.
The complaint says that they were never offered other seats, that passengers could attest that she was not rude or confrontational and that the flight attendant was rude and disrespectful.
On April 23, Frontier released the following statement:
“During boarding of flight 2066 from McCarran International Airport (LAS) to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) last week, two passengers told the flight attendants that vomit was present in their seat area. The flight attendants apologized and immediately invited the mother and her teenage daughter to move to either end of the plane so that the seat area could be cleaned. The mother and daughter were also told that once boarding was complete they would be provided other seats if available. The daughter was also offered cleaning products and invited to use the lavatory to wash up. The mother was unsatisfied with the response and became disruptive. As a result, the flight attendants determined that the mother and daughter should be deplaned and accommodated on another flight. The mother refused, and following procedure, law enforcement was called. Law enforcement then requested that everyone deplane so that the mother and daughter could be removed allowing the aircraft to be re-boarded and depart. We apologized to our passengers for the inconvenience caused by the departure delay. The safety of passengers and crew is our top priority at Frontier.”
The complaint alleges that parts of the statement were false and untrue.
The woman says she suffered mental anguish and emotional distress due to what the complaint calls “deliberate and malicious acts” as well as “humiliation.”
The filing accuses the defendant of abuse of process, defamation, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The complaint, which includes photos of the substance in the seat area, asks for $55 million in compensatory damages as well as an unspecified amount in punitive damages.