A 23-year-old woman Was eft feeling “scared and vulnerable” after a number of unsolicited text messages from a staff member after she checked in for her flight from Abu Dhabi to Manchester.
Hannah Smethurst, a student paramedic, was scheduled to return to Manchester Airport from the United Arab Emirates with Etihad Airlines on Wednesday, June 21.
After completing her check-in process and having her bags and passport handled at the front desk, she started receiving perplexing WhatsApp messages from an unknown number as she waited to board her plane.
She shared a screenshot of the WhatsApp conversation on Twitter, which received more than a million views and thousands of shares.
The initial message sent to Hannah read: “Heyy, I have seen u from Abudhabi.” When Hannah inquired about how her number was procured, the sender revealed: “I searched u in system.”
They clarified they were “working” and when asked “hotel or the airline” by Hannah, they replied: “Airline.”
Suddenly realising Hannah’s discomfort, the worker apoloigised for “the trouble” and suggested she block them if thjeyw ere disturbing her.
The last message Hannah received was a notification about her flight boarding.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Hannah said: “I checked in like normal, not really taking any notice of the guy at check-in… but just a normal polite quick interaction as he checked my bag and gave me my boarding pass.
“I’d been in the airport waiting for roughly three hours and was at my gate waiting to board in the line to get onto the aircraft when I received a Whatsapp from an unknown number.”
Hannah said she was “really shaken” and felt “so vulnerable and scared” after the interaction, being a young woman travelling alone and knowing a stranger not only had her number but potentially other personal details too.
Etihad confirmed the member of staff was hired by a third party contractor and faced disciplinary action.
A spokesperson said: “Our team have been in contact with the guest and Etihad initiated a full investigation as soon as it was made aware of inappropriate conduct by an employee of a third-party contractor.
“As a result of the investigation, the relevant employee involved has been disciplined in accordance with the contractor’s disciplinary procedures. The privacy and safety of our guests is our number one priority and we sincerely apologise for the distress caused to our guest.”
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