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Woman suing airline over toy

Renee Koutsouradis was sitting on a plane in Dallas last February, awaiting takeoff. She and her husband were returning to Pinellas County after a Las Vegas vacation.

Suddenly, she heard her name over the loudspeaker. A Delta Airlines security agent met her at the front of the plane and told her to walk with him to the tarmac.

He said something was vibrating in one of her bags.

She says she told the agent what it was: an adult toy that she and her husband had just bought on their trip to Las Vegas.

In a lawsuit, she says the agent took her to the bag on the tarmac and forced her to open it "and remove the adult toy and hold it up for visible view."

One side of the plane's passengers witnessed the scene, the lawsuit says, as three male Delta employees nearby "began laughing hysterically" and offered "obnoxious and sexually harassing comments."

After being forced to hold the item up for a minute, the suit says, Koutsouradis was allowed to re-pack and return to her seat for the flight to Tampa.

Koutsouradis, 36, declined to comment, saying, "I just don't want to be embarrassed any more than I've already been."

Brad Tobin, her St. Petersburg attorney, said, "She was pretty horrified by the treatment. She never contended that Delta doesn't have the right to investigate a security issue. It was their total lack of professionalism."

The security agent should have escorted Koutsouradis to a private area, Tobin said.

A spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Delta declined to comment on the lawsuit.

But speaking generally, spokeswoman Katie Connell said, "We have an obligation . . . to protect the safety and security of passengers. If there's anything questionable about a bag, we have a responsibility to investigate."

Tobin declined to say where his client lived in Pinellas or what she did for a living.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, seeks unspecified damages of more than $15,000, accusing Delta of negligence, the intentional infliction of emotional distress and gender discrimination.

Michael Boyd, an airline planning and security consultant from Colorado, said embarrassing incidents have become more common with increased security by all airlines since Sept. 11.

"I think there might be a sensitivity issue here that may need to be addressed by Delta" if the lawsuit is accurate, he said. "But customers now have to be aware that their bags are always subject to search in front of other people."

He said his guideline would be to leave anything embarrassing at home, just in case.