The Curious Case of Delta Pilot Andrea Ratfield
The Delta captain reported sexual harassment and assault at work. Delta sent her to rehab and demoted her
This is a longform journalism piece. I recommend settling in a quiet place to read the story of Andrea Ratfield’s experience in its entirety
The usual trigger warnings for rape, sexual assault and harassment
If you’ve experienced harassment, assault or abuse in the airline industry, you can contact me confidentially at MeTooAirlines at Proton.me. If you have information about any of the cases I’ve written about, I can route you to those legal teams
It’s the summer of 2020, and Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian is drafting an epic memo outlining the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Bastian promises clarity and transparency throughout the $27.5-billion company’s journey to a less white, less male leadership. He writes that he is “committed to correcting our course as we become a more just, equal and anti-racist company.”
Meanwhile, up north in Delta’s “second home” of Minneapolis, Captain Andrea Ratfield is doing some writing of her own.
It’s June 26, a Friday. At her wits’ end, Ratfield composes an email to high-ranking Delta executives, including Bastian.
A skilled pilot with an exemplary flying record, Ratfield launched her career at Delta as a flight attendant in 1999 before joining the airline’s three percent of women pilots in 2007.
In the summer of 2020, Ratfield is balancing a full life as a commercial airline pilot, activist, mother of two young boys with special needs, and trauma survivor. Making life even more challenging: In the midst of it all, she’s been routinely sexually harassed and assaulted at work. Despite reporting the incidents to her bosses, the male pilot perpetrators are never disciplined.
In her email, Ratfield reminds the executives what she’s been through—likely touching on a few examples in a laundry list that includes a male instructor pilot coming to her hotel room at 2 a.m. for “a drink” and another grabbing her breasts—and outlines again the retaliation she’s endured since reporting the abhorrent behavior.
She closes out the letter with a request that she not be forced to work any longer with the male pilots she says are retaliating against her. She names Captain Scott Monjeau, First Officer Warren Mowry and Captain Ray Baltera.
She hits send.
On July 14, Bastian goes on CNN to tout his airline’s diversity and equity plan.
Delta’s top man talks a good game. The 6’ 3” bespectacled CEO with slicked-back salt-and-pepper hair is duly somber as CNN’s presenter pushes him on the airline’s poor record of minorities in leadership positions.
Bastian admits he’s heard Black employees speak of being left out of the “broader” discussion, and says that “…minorities of all varieties, women, are all really important…[we need to] ensure that we’re doing our very best to promote opportunity and equality.”
He adds, “They’re family. They’re my family…I have a responsibility to do a better job.”
On August 11, 2020, Ed Bastian’s diversity memo blasts out to staff and media worldwide. The subject: Taking Action.
Bastian never replied to Ratfield’s June missive, just as he didn’t to her January 2020 email detailing the sexual harassment some of Delta’s male pilots had subjected her to for years.
Odd, because surely Bastian knows that Ratfield is not the only woman to suffer this treatment on his watch.
Indeed, the Old Boys’ Club at Delta is alive and well, according to multiple women, mostly pilots and flight attendants, who have filed lawsuits or grievances. With a baked-in culture of fear about speaking out at so many major carriers, it’s impossible to know precisely how many employees are suffering in silence.
Relentless harassment. Zero consequences.
Here’s a short list of some of the alleged incidents Ratfield reported to Delta bosses over the years:
On a training trip in 2007, Captain Richard Stark, a line check airman, repeatedly called Ratfield’s hotel room asking to have a drink with her, then showed up at her door at two a.m. She declined. The next day, Stark “belittled and demeaned Ratfield in the flight deck and made a false report regarding her performance.” Ratfield reported the pilot, but nothing was done.
During a layover in Sao Paulo, Brazil around 2008, Captain Paul Eberly pointed out a T-shirt with “Two in the front, one in the rear” written on it along with an illustration of fingers in a sexually suggestive position. Every time Ratfield saw Eberly after that, he made that finger gesture. She reported Eberly to the New York City Chief Pilot Office, but nothing was done.
In 2011, as she finished pumping breast milk on the flight deck (having nowhere else to go), Captain Gordon Goss saw her breasts. Goss, who later became one of Ratfield’s direct supervisors, told Delta’s Regional Director Captain Gregory Cardis and Captain Baltera—also her direct supervisors—about seeing her exposed breasts.
During a layover in Washington D.C. in 2015, First Officer Aubrey Venable told Ratfield she needed a “nipple to suck down [her] drink.” She asked him to quit making offensive comments. Venable came up behind her, reached around, grabbed her breasts, and exclaimed “I found your nipples!” Ratfield reported him to her captain John Sollinger the next day, but nothing was done.
In April 2016, Captain Cardis, Captain Baltera, and other male pilots commented that the fit of Ratfield’s uniform created a “camel toe.”
Yet instead of disciplining the perpetrators in any of these incidents, Delta turned on one of its few female captains and instigated a bizarre campaign of attrition that left her navigating a Kafkaesque fog of gaslighting and retaliation, according to an explosive lawsuit filed by her attorneys in a Minnesota court.
Ratfield is suing Delta for gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. The amended complaint filed in August (embedded below) reads like a thriller film script with twists and turns, eye-popping this-can’t-be-real moments, and allegations of shocking abuses of power.
Andrea Ratfield has worked to make life at Delta better for everyone. She’s been involved with the Delta Union’s Pilot Family Matters Committee to address sexual harassment and other unaddressed issues, and she also helped draft both the airline’s first-ever maternity policy for pilots and its first-ever nursing/bonding policy for pilots.
She’s the co-founder and former president of the nonprofit Female Aviators Sticking Together (“F.A.S.T.”), which counts over 14,000 pilots as members and provides flight training scholarships and a support network for the marginalized female pilot community.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a male pilot, Delta’s former VP of Flight Operations & System Chief Pilot Captain O.C. Miller, called F.A.S.T. a “group of angry venting female pilots.”
Ratfield is undaunted.
“Her entire career has been about helping women,” her attorney, Sara Wyn Kane of New York-based firm Valli Kane & Vagnini, told me in an interview. “Her absolute driving motivation here is to help other female pilots and rectify the system when it comes to women in the cockpit.”
Delta filed a motion to dismiss Ratfield’s case in October but didn’t address the harassment claims:
If necessary, Delta would readily refute Ratfield’s allegations of gender discrimination, retaliation and harassment, but for purposes of this motion, Counts I-III of the FAC must be dismissed because her retaliation and discrimination claims are preempted by the Federal Aviation Act and the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”).
When I contacted Delta for comment about Ratfield’s lawsuit, a spokesperson sent this statement:
“Delta is aware of the complaints and allegations. While we do not comment on pending litigation, Delta has zero tolerance for sexual misconduct, retaliation or discrimination in any form by its employees and takes seriously any allegations of this nature. Nothing is more important than the safety, health and well-being of our employees, and we continually invest to ensure our employees have the resources they need, including tripling our investment in mental health resources in recent years.”
Unfortunately, Ratfield’s suit says the harassment against her is “ongoing and continuous” from 2007 to the present. For sixteen years she’s gone to work to fly various aircraft while facing down assaults, snide comments and her own bosses behaving like adolescent boys sniggering on the playground about seeing a girl’s boobies.
She’s not alone. Off the top of my head…
There’s the pending case of a flight attendant who was repeatedly raped by a Delta pilot and claims the company retaliated against her.
There’s the Blowjob Voicemail left with an abundance of hubris on a recorded message in 2020 by a male Delta pilot to a female flight attendant who’d inquired about becoming a pilot. The man said the woman “would make a better flight attendant than a pilot” and that “women should not be in the cockpit unless they’re giving a blowjob.”
And there’s Ratfield’s colleague, retired Captain Karlene Petitt, who won her case against Delta for weaponizing mental health against her (though she’s said it’s not really a “win” in light of the expensive, protracted fight she was forced to engage in and the fact “no one was held accountable”).
More incidents are listed below in Petitt’s letter making a case for a sexual harassment policy at Delta (the measure failed):
So how did Ratfield’s case spiral so far out of control? Let’s start at the beginning.
The night that changed everything
On Sept. 26 of 2017, Ratfield attends an event for women in aviation. Later that night, a stranger rapes her repeatedly.
Few details are provided in the lawsuit, but it’s clear the attack traumatized her. Like so many victims of assault, Ratfield marches on with her life. She takes care of her children. She shows up to work.
But she struggles. By October, she knows she needs help, and she turns to Delta Captain Scott Monjeau.
“she…asked for his assistance dealing with the stress caused by the rapes, the constant sexual harassment, and repeated gender discrimination,” the lawsuit reads. “Plaintiff Ratfield also advised Captain Monjeau that she was drinking to deal with the rapes.”
This is where we begin our journey down the rabbit hole. The sequence of events, as the lawsuit lays it out:
Monjeau advises her to enter an FAA-approved program called HIMS (Human Intervention Motivation Study), promising “she would get the help that she needed [for the rapes], that it would be a quick 5-weeks ‘Pilot Program’ and that she would be ‘in-and-out.’”
What Ratfield doesn’t know at the time: 1. HIMS is specifically an alcohol and substance abuse program for pilots, and 2. Monjeau was sending her to a place known to be full of predatory men to heal from sexual assault by a predatory man.
As the lawsuit explains, “Notably, [she] would have never voluntarily entered the HIMS program had Captain Monjeau explained the details of it.”
The next alarm bells tolled when protocol was set aside from the start in Ratfield’s case.
Ratfield checks into Delta’s contract treatment facility, Talbott Recovery Center in Atlanta, on October 24, 2017.
Although it’s routine for other pilots, no manager or union representative is there to meet her. Also, a standard 72-hour assessment is not done.
Then she’s told she can’t enter the five-week rehabilitation Pilot Program after all, “due to her gender and the sexually predatory nature of the men in the program.”
She’s put in the eight-week program instead, which means three more weeks away from her young children. More alarming, her counselors tell her “not to report sexual harassment to Delta and to ‘just get through it.’”
She is at their mercy, and in mid-November, Delta’s Regional Director Captain Cardis allegedly discredits Ratfield to her treatment team. Because of this, Ratfield, who according to the suit and her attorneys says she is not an alcoholic or drug user, has her treatment upped to twelve weeks. She must comply if she wants Delta to even consider letting her fly again.
Interestingly, Cardis, according to several news articles, was one of several Northwest Airlines pilots that prosecutors said “knowingly and deliberately” avoided paying Minnesota taxes, and in 2002 he was charged with multiple felony counts including tax evasion, failure to pay motor vehicle tax and filing false and fraudulent returns.
Anyway, by December, Ratfield is getting “severe, crude, and unsolicited sexually offensive text messages, photographs, and a masturbating video from male patients, which she reported.”
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‘Keep your fucking nose clean’
Next thing she knows, Ratfield is involuntarily transferred to MARR Addiction Treatment Center under the guise of protecting her from certain male patients at Talbott. Monjeau berates her on the drive to MARR, yelling that she needs to keep her “fucking nose clean.”
Meanwhile, wouldn’tcha know it? MARR has two Delta bigwigs on its board!
Yep, former Delta Senior Vice President Captain Jim Graham and Delta’s current Senior Vice President of Flight Operations and System Chief Pilot Captain Patrick Burns were/are Board Members, according to the suit. What a coincidence!
Did Ratfield want to keep her job? Her benefits? Her stable paycheck as a single mother of two children who depended on her? Yes, she did. So she went along when given another 90 days of inpatient treatment.
Dealing with trauma
Delta’s motion to dismiss does not address Ratfied’s rape. This is all they say about her confiding in Monjeau about her attack:
“Ratfield admits that in 2017, she had been drinking too much alcohol. Ratfield alleges that on October 24, 2017, with Delta’s assistance, she checked into the Talbot treatment facility and was required to undergo an 8-week rehabilitation program; however, she did not complete that program and was transferred to MARR Treatment Center.”
(Enjoy this video of Bastian’s deposition in Karlene Petitt’s case against Delta in which he replies to a lawyer’s question with: “I don’t know what accountable executive means”).
Supporting the mental health and sobriety of commercial-airline pilots is vitally important, which makes it all the more dangerous when this process is poisoned, abused and weaponized.
Ratfield’s suit puts it this way:
“Delta uses these public protections to retaliate against its employees as it immediately removes them from employment and their failure to comply with Delta’s strictures is a death knell to their careers. Accordingly, Delta gains blind compliance from those against whom it wishes to retaliate.”
Uh oh—Ratfield fails a random alcohol test! (Or does she?)
Delta management was all over the place with Ratfield for years after MARR. If you read the lawsuit, it’s notable how much of a mess they made of her treatment, aftercare and general management by her bosses.
Seriously. It’s almost funny—like in the summer of 2019, manager ATL CPO Captain Harry Miller asked Ratfield out on a date for “burgers and a beer.” He knew full well she couldn’t drink, because he’d attended a Delta pilots’ meeting with her while at Talbott.
Was that supposed to be a trap? Who knows. It’s wildly inappropriate, at best.
Here’s the amended complaint if you want to read it in full and follow the twists, turns and machinations outlined here. Andrea Ratfield must be exhausted.
Anyway, Ratfield’s rehab horror—reading it feels like a movie where you think you’ve found the exit to the maze, but you slam into another brick wall—continued past MARR as Delta pushed her into yet another rehab stay, again taking a single mother away from her children.
At this point, one must reflect on why a woman who’d been making waves for years about bad behavior by male pilots—the ones in power—was now being tossed around like a golf ball in a washing machine.
Petitt shared her theory on her blog:
Captain Ratfield had reported sexual harassment internally to HR and management without anyone assisting. Instead, someone decided to get rid of her via the HIMS program. Much of her abuse was at the hands of management pilots.
Things would only get worse. In 2019, Ratfield, who denies ever drinking after her various rehab stays for a problem she never had according to her lawsuit, failed a random alcohol test.
But something’s fishy.
Turns out the usual protocols for that test are not followed.
The test is sent to the wrong address and is rescheduled at a third-party lab. Ratfield shows up and they don’t have the proper PEth test kit, so she has to take a non-controlled Dried Blood Spot PEth test “that is notorious for its false positives.”
“A non-controlled test is a violation of Delta’s own policy requiring controlled tests,” her lawsuit says. The test is positive despite Ratfield “not having consumed any alcohol.”
Her suit says male pilots are routinely offered second-chance tests to confirm questionable results. Once again, Ratfield is not given the recourse male pilots are. She voluntarily takes a second, more sensitive PEth test that same day. It’s negative. Delta allegedly rejects the results.
From the lawsuit:
Notably, Captain H. Miller afforded Captain Michael Perez a secondary test, and [a doctor] permitted Captain Perez to undergo further testing after a second positive test result. Unlike Plaintiff Ratfield, Captain Perez was not required to attend retreatment or execute a “last chance” agreement. Moreover, in 2016, a male pilot, Michael Rysso (sic), incurred a DUI and was not required to enter Delta’s HIMS/Delta Pilots Assistance Committee program…
Next, she takes a hair follicle test at a hospital—negative. Delta did “not accept the results despite accepting (and even asking for) secondary results from male pilots.”
She goes for a fingernail test, which can detect the presence of alcohol for up to 180 days—negative. She takes and passes a polygraph test on her own dime for goodness sake! Delta is allegedly all innocent like, Sorry, we couldn’t possibly accept these very clear results.
Are we noticing a pattern here?
What’s notable, too, is the timing of the non-controlled PEth test. On the very day she was notified of and took a random test, she’d attended a planned appointment with Dr. Alan Kozarsky and received her FAA Special Issuance Authorization and First Class Medical Certificate. The lawsuit explains that Kozarsky said,
“she is sober” and that there were “no concerns at this time.” Plaintiff Ratfield also provided a urine sample during her required 6-month examination, scheduled almost 1-month prior, which could have been used for alcohol testing.
She knew about this appointment a month ahead of time. Does it make sense she’d be drinking at any point around that vitally important doctor visit?
When Ratfield speaks up about the blatant double standards at play, male captain supervisors gaslight her and start hinting maybe she’s paranoid, maybe she’s imagining things, maybe she’s not right in the head.
Weaponizing medical care
Through all of this, Captain Ratfield is still flying.
But after the false positive PEth test, she’s now in dangerous territory. They say she’s been drinking when she’s proved she hasn’t been.
That means more rehab, a “last chance agreement” she’s expected to sign to keep her job, and submitting to the control of one doctor. In Ratfield’s case, this was Dr. Alan Kozarsky, an ophthamologist.
For non-aviation people (I might be the only one here), these test results, the doctors that oversee them, this program—all of it is key to the survival of a pilot’s career. This is all in service of receiving the all-important First Class Medical Certificate. This is why Ratfield went along. She had no choice, by design.
Karlene Petitt, who has vast direct experience with this, writes in harrowing, crisp detail about how it works. Doctors paid in cash or through Venmo directly by the pilots. Suspiciously outrageous sums of cash charged with no recourse. Petitt knows a pilot who was charged $4,200 by Kozarsky for submitting his files to the FAA.
Four grand for paperwork? Nice work if you can get it.
The lawsuit tells a twisted and sordid tale of Ratfield’s experience under Kozarsky’s control. In a nutshell, she alleges Kozarsky was retaliatory and made her feel unsafe pretty much from the start. Her suit claims he has a conflict of interest and says Kozarsky forced her “to undergo a psychiatric evaluation because she maintained her sobriety.”
She asked Delta management and her union in every way possible to assign her to a different doctor. Maybe a female doctor. Ratfield is a woman with a documented history of trauma. This is a no brainer.
But of course they wouldn’t allow it, even though the FAA was fine with her switching doctors, according to the suit. It’s about control, and Kozarsky, who is an ophthalmologist (?!), had it. Seeing the pattern yet?
Here’s where it gets really ugly. Factor in the imbalance of power, the intimate nature of the contact, the almost total control, and what happened next is unconscionable.
On January 12, 2021, Ratfield is required to see Dr. Kozarsky for her FAA Special Issuance Authorization and First Class Medical Certificate appointment.
He needed to check her lungs. Now, I’ve had my lungs checked for decades, and never have I been asked to remove my bra to get to my lungs. No one I casually polled this week had, either.
“Dr. Kozarsky shockingly required Plaintiff Ratfield to remove her shirt and bra to simply listen to her lungs. Plaintiff Ratfield reported this retaliatory, heinous and unnecessary behavior to Mr. Bastian, Ms. Smith, Ms. Lentsch, Captain Cochran, Mr. Laughter, Captain Burns, and Captain Baltera, but nothing was done.”
As a woman who’s been through my own stuff, I have a lot of feelings about this. But I couldn’t say it better than Petitt in her piece about Ratfield’s case:
On January 12, 2021, a year after she began pleading with her Delta management team to get away from from Kozarsky…[he] showed her who was boss. He exerted his power over her and sent a message... loud and clear... that he was in control and could do anything he wanted by ordering her to remove her bra during her FAA Special Issuance Authorization and First Class Medical Certificate appointment. She reported this behavior, yet the company still did absolutely nothing.
It wasn’t until she filed suit in June of 2021 that Delta finally moved Ratfield out of Kozarsky’s, ahem, care.
A threat to her job—and a demotion
There were hints galore that Delta’s managers wanted Ratfield gone.
At a meeting in August of 2018, for example, Captain Cardis berated her for two hours about her past complaints, threatened her employment status, and said he’d “leave his opinion in her file because he wanted future chief pilots and Delta’s management to know how he felt about her.”
Ratfield understood she was in danger of termination and did everything she could to comply even as she protested unfair treatment, the lawsuit says.
On December 27, 2019, Baltera informed her she was being terminated, and that she had to attend a meeting for the notice of intent to terminate. That same day, Kozarsky told Ratfield to go back to inpatient treatment to make it “easy” on herself and “threatened” that “you do not want to go up against big company and big government.”
In the end she wasn’t fired, but in late 2020, Baltera demoted Captain Ratfield to first officer after backdating 25 hours and 40 minutes of her 2019 company administrative leave status to SICK status, which “forced her onto disability and prevented her reinstatement rights.”
He did not have to do this, her suit claims:
“Captain Baltera [retaliated] against her for her complaints of sexual harassment by effectively demoting her and refusing to reinstate her to Captain despite his ability to do so.”
Ratfield, months later, would be a captain again. But she wasn’t out of the woods and having exhausted every other avenue, she filed suit against Delta in June 2021. The court has yet to rule on the airline’s motion to dismiss, and Ratfield is still here. Still standing. Still flying.
They inflicted a million paper cuts to make her leave. They thought they could drown her in a drip, drip drip of unfair treatment.
But Ratfield, her attorneys tell me, is facing them head on. Not just for her and her family, but for the women who come after her. And for her fellow crewmembers in the cockpit, in the cabin, on the ground right now.
When I read about what she and other women taking on the airline industry are enduring at great cost to themselves, I think of the couplet by Greek poet, novelist and folklorist Dinos Christianopoulos:
what didn't you do to bury me
but you forgot that I was a seed.
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I’m an award-winning journalist and author of the #1 bestselling book The Strong Ones, the true story of a groundbreaking 7-month U.S. Army women’s strength study and its long-term impact on women in the military.
My reporting has appeared in national and international publications including U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, The Sunday Times Magazine (UK), People, Glamour, Shape and more. I contributed to the feminist anthology Letters of Intent along with such icons as Judy Blume, Ntozake Shange and Gloria Steinem. Perhaps best known for my viral resignation letter from People magazine, I covered high-profile crime stories for them across Europe and the U.S. including the Amanda Knox case in Italy, the disappearance of Madeline McCann in Portugal, and the tragic school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. I am the author of two mystery novels: The Underdogs and Famous Last Words.
The Landing was born after I wrote a lengthy investigative series and personal defense of American Airlines First Officer Sten Molin, the pilot of tragic flight 587 and a friend of mine in the late 1990s. Starting in late 2021, dozens of women, most of them flight attendants, came forward to re-educate me and my readers about Molin’s double life as a serial rapist, harasser, stalker and predator of underage girls.