An airline passenger received unsolicited WhatsApp messages from a contract contractor working for Etihad Airways while she was waiting to board a flight from Abu Dhabi to Manchester, she has said.
Hannah Smethurst, 23, tweets a screenshot showing WhatsApp messages from a United Arab Emirates number she did not recognize, revealing the name Muhammed.
I have seen you from abudhabi, the first message said, followed by a smiling emoji. When she questioned how the sender got her number, they responded I searched u in the system and clarification said they were referring to the airline's system.
The messages continued: If I am disturbing u just block me. About 10 minutes after the initial message, the sender said: FYI Ur flight is boarding. Smethurst, who was visiting a friend in Abu Dhabi, said the experience left her feeling concerned about her safety.
I was alone, so I just felt really vulnerable because it stuck in my mind that he knows my number, knows my full name and email address and obviously everything you give him when you book a flight, she said. I felt vulnerable and scared. It made me feel like he knew what was going on and where I was going. Smethurst accused airport staff of being dismissive when she reported the incident. She spoke to a management who offered to take her off the flight so she could file a police report, but warned she would have to wait 24 hours for the next direct flight to Manchester.
I just rang my mum who tried to calm me down and then just got on the flight, because they only do one day back to Manchester so I thought: I m not waiting around.
I landed in Manchester, it was then actually Manchester Etihad customer services who were great and helped me out loads. In a statement, Etihad said its team has begun a full investigation after speaking to Smethurst and establishing that there had been inappropriate conduct by an employee of a third-party contractor. Our privacy and safety are our No. 1 priority, and we sincerely apologise for the distress that our guests have caused.