Lawsuit: Delta 'platinum' customer groped woman on flight to Minneapolis

Associated Press

Associated Press

Can't decide if you joining the Delta Platinum Medallion club is right for you?

Membership comes with a raft of benefits, including the choice between any of these --

-- plus unlimited upgrades on flight seating, including to a first-class seat, or simply a "preferred seat," if you've got one you want.

One more possible perk, according to a lawsuit filed in California this week: Flight attendants will let you move seats to sit next to a young woman, and keep bringing you drinks even if you're creeping on her.

Rachel Vachata, 29, filed suit against Lucio Lanza, a septugenerian Silicon Valley venture capitalist, claiming Lanza harassed and groped her on a July 2017 red-eye flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis, as reported in the San Jose Mercury News

Vachata says Lanza suggested he could use his influence in the tech investment market to "make or break" her tech career -- she's launched two companies already -- and spent the flight touching her without her consent.

Vachata's lawsuit says Lanza got up from his assigned seat prior to takeoff and moved to sit next to the young woman. A flight attendant told Lanza to return to his seat, and the one next to Vachata was soon filled by an off-duty pilot. 

When the pilot left that seat, Lanza seized the opening again. The investor was visibly drunk and slurring about being "close friends with Steve Jobs," according to Vachata's civil complaint, which also alleges he grabbed Vachata's breast, thrust his hand into her lap, and tried kissing her, all of which she resisted.

Vachata says she reported Lanza's lascivious behavior to the off-duty pilot whose seat he'd taken, to flight attendants, and to law enforcement. The FBI has jurisdiction over crimes committed on flights, and Vachata's attorney says the agency "is investigating the incident," though neither the San Francisco or Minneapolis offices commented to the Mercury News.

Vachata claims when she asked an "airline representative" why Lanza was allowed to move next to her, and why he kept receiving drinks, the employee said his Delta Platinum status was a "likely" explanation.

As for Lanza, a spokesperson told the newspaper he "has no idea" what Vachata's lawsuit is alleging, and described his recollection of the flight as merely "talking with this woman about her startup." 

Correction: An earlier version of this story confused the Delta Platinum Medallion and the Platinum Delta American Express card. The writer has bad credit, no accumulated miles, and will likely never be a member of any club named for a precious metal.