Sexual Misconduct and Airlines: When Flying the Friendly Skies Becomes Too Friendly
Written by John D. Winer
Air travel is a strange proposition. Between the time doors on the plane close and then open, the people on board are stuck together for the duration. For the most part, flights take off and land without any real incident. However, the behavior women are forced to endure can be inexcusable, ranging from lewd comments and inappropriate behavior to groping and sexual assault.
Media outlets have reported several instances of women who were sexually harassed or assaulted by a man on a plane mid-flight with little or no recourse. If the flight is full, a woman may not be able to relocate to a safer position on the plane.
According to a CNN investigation, FBI investigations into midair sexual assaults increased 66% between 2014 and 2017, which does not include instances of sexual harassment and assault which go unreported. Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants, has stated that there is little to no training for staff on airplanes and so when these situations arise, few know how to handle them.
Several media outlets have reported on this problem, and several women reported unwanted touching and groping as one of the main ways they were sexually assaulted. In fact, one law enforcement official reported that sexual assaults are the worst on evening and red-eye flights when the cabin lights are dim as it can be difficult to identify the assailant. In addition, these flights will tend to have an increased consumption of alcohol by travelers either before or during the flight. Alcohol often plays a significant role in sexual harassment and assault cases, and with passengers able to get alcohol at airport bars or on the plane, it can make matters more complicated.
To make matters worse, many of these instances go unreported. Mike Adams, a former FBI agent specializing in these types of cases, said “There are so many women out there, being touched in their crotch, touched on their breasts, and no one is reporting it.”
When these crimes take place, women can report it to the airline staff. In some cases, the police will be waiting at the gate to arrest and detain the alleged wrongdoer. A formal complaint will also have to be made in order for the police to prosecute. A civil complaint may also be lodged against the individual who committed the crime and the airline if it did nothing to prevent the matter, deal with the behavior or assist the passenger who had been harassed.