January 23, 2020

Two Flight Attendant Stories About Sexual Harassment on United Airlines

Excerpts from Cosmopolitan.com


Alyssa, 24

United Airlines

I was on an international flight, and I ended up working the front. I was working with the lead flight attendant from the international crew who was probably in his 50s, and I noticed he was being really nice to me. I had responsibilities and he told me not to do anything, just to be beautiful. It was really uncomfortable because he switched sides with another flight attendant to work next to me. When we were working the cart, if I reached for something he would put his hand on top of mine and like caress my hand. When I had to run to the back to get something, he blocked me in the galley and hugged me and wouldn’t let go while rubbing my back. During long flights, we also have crew rest, and him and I had the same break. He tried to come behind me and give me a massage, and talked about how he wanted to date me. He also asked to see pictures of me in a bathing suit. I found out later in the flight that another flight attendant was complaining because the breaks are usually selected by seniority, and he broke the seniority rule to put me on his break so I could spend more time with him. I didn’t really call him out on it or anything because you don’t want to be in a fight with your coworkers during a long flight.

Another time, we had a layover during an international flight, and we were hanging out with another crew in the airport lounge. Everyone was drinking wine, and I noticed the captain from my crew was a little creepy. He made a comment like, “You could be as ugly as a toad, but give a woman a few martinis and you’re in.” Later, we all went out to a bar, and the captain came up to me and said he wanted to dance with me. He touched my hand and put it on his leg and said, “This is my wallet, but don’t be alarmed if you feel something else.” And he asked me if I was more attracted to him or the other pilot, both of which are in their mid-50s. While we were dancing, the other pilot actually tried to slap my butt too. I left them, and another woman working with me on the flight came up to me and said that the captain sexually harassed her, that he was touching her all over and wouldn’t stop touching her. She also told me he had taken advantage of her when she was drunk on a different layover. We left the bar, and the next day on the flight I didn’t have any interactions with him, but I think it was close to seven women that he harassed in the night before, including me. It’s just part of the culture that these things aren’t reported.

Maria, 31

United Airlines

I had a pilot from a different airline flying in first class. I went to take his lunch order, and he asked me if I was on the menu. I said no, but we have a great chicken salad. I walked away and later came back to take his drink order. He said he would love to drink me up. I left again and came back, and he asked if he could drink my water. I told him I wasn’t going to take his order for the rest of the flight, that he was being rude and disrespectful. He seemed taken aback because I guess he thought he was being flattering. Throughout the rest of the flight he kept looking at me and making little gestures.


While cases of these actions have occurred on virtually every airline, United Airlines aircrews have apparently received ineffective training due to consistent failures in addressing sexually harassing actions, speech, or pornography-use.

Learn more about why United Airlines is on the Dirty Dozen List and take action.

National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Founded in 1962, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is the leading national organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health crisis of pornography.

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