An airplane may seem like an unlikely place for sexual harassment or groping to occur. You are surrounded by people, flight attendants regularly patrol the aisle and it would seem difficult for a perpetrator to believe they could get away with such a blatant, criminal act. However, recent news shows this is unfortunately wishful thinking, and such activity does occur in our skies every year. If you or a loved one were sexually harassed or assaulted on a plane, contact an attorney from Altman & Altman LLP right away to get started on your case.
According to the FBI, there were 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault between 2013 and 2014, which increased to 63 cases between 2016 and 2017, according to an advisory that was published by the FBI in 2018.
Most recently, a U.S. Army veteran reported that she was groped while relaxing during a late-night flight in which the cabin was darkened for the passengers to get some sleep. When she alerted a flight attendant, she was reportedly simply told to return to her seat. Another passenger had a similar experience, ABC News reported recently.
Those two passengers’ experiences are now the basis of a first of its kind class action lawsuit against Frontier Airlines, the airline company on which the assaults allegedly occurred. The suit claims that Frontier employees “fail[ed] to have and/or follow policies and procedures to prevent, report and respond to sexual assault of its passengers on its flights.”
Although the problem of in-flight sexual assault incidents – most commonly incidents of groping – is well established, the suit makes the case that airlines are not doing enough to prevent them from occurring or, at the least, not doing enough to train staff in the event that such an event occurs. The attorneys from this class action suit allege that airlines handle these cases in “piecemeal fashion,” meaning that there is no uniform way in which they are dealt with or trained for.
In this case, the U.S. Army veteran who was allegedly assaulted reported not being allowed to move away to a different seat further away from the person she just said assaulted her. Additionally, the flight attendant apparently failed to report the incident to their superiors or request law enforcement officials to be standing by to take a report of the occurrence and question the accuser and accused, nor did the airline attempt to question any potential witnesses about what occurred.
The veteran told the pilots of the occurrence, who did alert local law enforcement and TSA agents, and she ultimately contacted the FBI – but no charges were filed as a result. She said the incident “humiliated” her and that she “went to the people who I thought would make it alright and they didn’t.” Continue reading