Sexual Abuse on an Airplane — Really?

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2020 | Other Sexual Abuse

How many times have you settled into a seat on a plane and closed your eyes or plugged in your music and thought “This is great. No one to interrupt or bother me. . .I can relax now.”

We don’t want you to worry excessively, but maybe you should think twice about letting your guard down completely.

Assaults on airplanes seem to be growing.

In 2014, 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault were reported to the FBI. In 2017, that number increased to 63.

Why the increase? Some says it’s due to the increase in overnight flights, long-distance flights and flight attendants over-serving passengers alcohol.

Here’s more bad news:

Unlike many other industries, airlines do not have a legal mandate to report criminal activity, such as sexual assault. Cruise lines, for example, became required to report crimes to the FBI with the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010.

And on airplanes, “there is no singular definition of sexual misconduct, there is no federal or national definition, there is not mandate for reporting,” said Sunitha Menon, chief of consulting services operations at the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Sadly, if a passenger is assaulted or harassed in the air, “they have no official avenue to report the incident. A passenger might tell a flight attendant what happened, who may report it to the captain, who might tell a ground supervisor, who then may or may not report it to the police department of where the plane is landed.”

And then maybe the FBI will look into it.

“You have a four- or five-step process to get a proper investigation,” said Paul Hudson, president of Flyers Rights, an organization that represents airline passengers. “In most cases, nothing occurs. Through those steps, the plane has landed, people have left and the possibility for proper investigation, much less prosecution, is gone.”

The good news:

In 2018, the federal National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force was set up, consisting of 14 members from varying backgrounds and groups include airline representatives, Department of Justice directors and labor organization leaders.

It’s expected to issue a report soon.

But while reports, policies, education and such are helpful, when it comes to getting the attention of authorities and prompting real change, it’s hard to beat litigation. Lawsuits, depositions, discovery and publicity often prod and scare those with power into using their power to better protect the powerless.

Horowitz Law is experienced handling sexual abuse cases in a variety of settings ranging from the workplace to churches to school and even airplanes.  If you or someone you know has been a victim of a sexual assault on an airplane, please email attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected] or call our law firm at (954) 651-2100