Flight attendant arrested for allegedly having hidden cameras in bathrooms, recording young girls

CHARLOTTE — An American Airlines flight attendant from Charlotte was arrested for allegedly recording or trying to record a teen girl in September 2023 using a lavatory on a plane from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to Boston Logan Airport.

Estes Carter Thompson III, 36, is also accused of having recordings of four other young girls who were passengers using lavatories aboard the aircraft he had worked previously.


Thompson is accused of recording or trying to record a 14-year-old girl as she used the bathroom onboard the flight on Sept. 2, 2023, while he was working as a flight attendant, according to court documents.

The girl got up to use the main cabin lavatory nearest to where she was seated about midflight, according to officials.

The lavatory was occupied and after she waited a short time, Thompson allegedly approached her, told her that the first-class lavatory was unoccupied, and escorted her toward first class.

“Before she can go in, he stops her and says, ‘Hang on. I need to go in and wash my hands. We’re about to start collecting garbage.’ Which is odd. In retrospect, it’s just a strange thing to say,” the girl’s father told Channel 9 in September 2023. “When he came out, he told her ‘The toilet seat is broken. We’re going to fix it when we get back to Charlotte. Don’t worry about it.’ And so, she didn’t think very much of what she saw when she then went in after he left.”

Court documents corroborated that claim and stated that Thompson then left the lavatory.

The teen girl saw red stickers on the underside of the toilet seat lid, which read, “inoperative catering equipment” and “remove from service,” and “seat broken” was hand-written in black ink on one of the stickers, according to the news release from acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy, District of Massachusetts.

“When she turned around to flush the toilet afterward, she realized that there was a phone taped underneath that tape,” the father said last fall.

An iPhone was hidden under the red stickers and the girl took a photo of it.

She left the lavatory and Thompson went in right after that.

The girl told her parents about what happened, and they reported it to other flight attendants, who told the captain. Law enforcement on the ground was notified about the incident.

The father confronted Thompson.

“I remember distinctly when I showed the picture to him, his face went white. White as a sheet. I’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said. “It was noticeable. Stark.”

Thompson locked himself in the lavatory with his iPhone for three to five minutes before the flight’s descent, according to the DA’s news release.

Authorities believe that Thompson restored the iPhone to its factory settings.

Thompson’s suitcase had 11 “inoperative catering equipment” stickers, like the ones in the lavatory.

Four additional instances, between January 2023 and August 2023, were on Thompson’s iCloud account, in which he recorded a minor using the lavatory on an aircraft.

The victims were seven, nine, 11, and 14 years old at the time.

The other victims were on the following flights:

  • Flight 1617 from Charlotte to Denver, Aug. 23, 2023.
  • Flight 2080 from Orlando to Charlotte, Aug. 15, 2023.
  • Flight 1615 from Charlotte to Kansas City, July 26, 2023.
  • Flight 2869 from Austin to Los Angeles, Jan. 26, 2023
  • Flight 1977 from Charlotte to San Antonio, July 9, 2023.

Over 50 images of a nine-year-old unaccompanied minor were also allegedly found in Thompson’s iCloud.

“The images included photos taken while the minor victim was seated in her seat pre-flight and close-ups of her face while sleeping,” the DA stated.

Thompson was charged with one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor.

Thompson also faces a federal charge because he “knowingly possessed material that contained one and more images of child pornography,” according to a federal complaint obtained by Channel 9.

Thompson was arrested Thursday in Lynchburg, Virginia, and will remain in custody pending his initial appearance in Virginia. He will appear in federal court in Boston later.

Channel 9 spoke with the 14-year-old girl’s father on Thursday.

“She’s one of the toughest people I know,” he said. “I mean, to have the forethought to have taken the picture that she did and stand up like she did. I don’t think many teenagers can do that.”

Hundreds of images of AI-generated child pornography were also allegedly found stored on Thompson’s iCloud account.

“You don’t have any leverage at all when you’re on a plane in that position and that someone could take advantage of that position of authority over you and over your children, and make something like this happen,” the father said. “It’s despicable.”

“The deeply disturbing conduct alleged here is something no parent or child should ever have to worry about when they travel. Mr. Thompson allegedly used his position to prey on and surreptitiously record innocent children, including unaccompanied minors, while in a vulnerable state aboard flights he was working,” said Levy in the news release. “Everyone – especially children – should feel safe and secure as airline passengers, and parents should feel comfortable traveling with their children. Protecting children is a paramount priority for this office and we will aggressively investigate and hold accountable people who victimize children.”

The attorney for the 14-year-old’s family released a statement after Thursday’s announcement.

“We are pleased to hear that the American Airlines flight attendant has finally been arrested,” said Paul Llewellyn of Lewis & Llewellyn LLP. “It is also shocking to hear that he allegedly preyed on at least five minors while they were flying on American. While the criminal justice system must now run its course against the flight attendant, it remains to be seen whether American Airlines will now finally take some measure of responsibility to the families for what happened. This should never have been allowed to happen and must never happen again.”

American Airlines sent the following statement:

“We take these allegations very seriously. They don’t reflect our airline or our core mission of caring for people. We have been fully cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation as there is nothing more important than the safety and security of our customers and team.”

Thompson was “immediately withheld from service” after the incident in September and hasn’t worked since, the airline said.

Channel 9 is asking if that means Thompson was fired.

VIDEO: ‘Sickening’: Charlotte dad seeks answers after daughter finds camera in plane bathroom