While airplanes, and airports, are often midway points for connecting friends and loved ones on their journey – they sometimes leave individuals isolated and stuck in a sexually exploitive situation.
When an individual is sexually harassed or assaulted in-flight, they are trapped in an enclosed environment with limited options for movement. Intimidation that prevents individuals from speaking out, and ill-trained in-flight staff who are not prepared to handle such complaints, can converge to leave individuals suffering in silence.
Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to, unwanted sexual advances or attention including physical actions, speech, and viewing pornography in-flight.
Industry Failure to Proactively Train Staff to Address Sexually Harassing Actions, Speech, or Pornography-Use
- Airlines struggle with protecting flight crews and passengers alike from sexual harassment. Sara Nelson, a United Airlines flight attendant and president of the union, told CNN, “In my 22 years as a flight attendant, I have never taken part in a conversation — in training or otherwise — about how to handle sexual harassment or sexual assault.” CNN continued: “While policies exist, Nelson says that if they’re not elevated in airlines’ training, flight attendants are at a loss for what to do when confronting inappropriate — and sometimes criminal — behavior.”
- Airlines are chronically ill-prepared to address the growing problem of pornography on airplanes and the ensuing culture of sexual harassment that this fosters. While most airlines have a policy on paper against in-flight pornography use, they are not adequately training their in-flight crews or support staff to ensure they A) are consciously aware the policy exists or B) know how to enforce it.
No one should be subjected to endure a toxic and sexually hostile environment on an airplane.
Help us send major airlines the message that it’s time to better navigate sexual harassment on planes!
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or exploitation on an airplane, please contact us to share your story. We will keep your story anonymous unless you request attribution.
Email American, Delta, and United Airlines
Report Sex Trafficking On the Plane
If You Suspect a Case of Human Trafficking While on a Plane:
- Try to subtly get the attention of a flight attendant, either through the call button or when they walk past you.
- Consider writing a note to them about your concern, so that you will not be overheard. Most flight attendants are also trained to identify trafficking victims, so you can ask them to pay attention to the individual(s) you are concerned about. Ask them to consider using cockpit communications to alert authorities on the ground to meet the plane at the gate.
Additional Reporting Options:
- Call toll-free (866) 347-2423 from anywhere in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
- Call (802) 872-6199 (not toll-free) from any country in the world.
- Report the tip online at www.ice.gov/tips.
FBI Suggested Precautions for Sexual Assault on Planes
- Trust your gut. Offenders will often test their victims, sometimes pretending to brush against them to see how they react or if they wake up. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. If such behavior occurs, reprimand the person immediately, and consider asking to be moved to another seat.
- Recognize that mixing alcohol with sleeping pills or other medication on an overnight flight increases your risk.
- If your seatmate is a stranger, no matter how polite he or she may seem, keep the armrest between you down.
- If you are arranging for a child to fly unaccompanied, try to reserve an aisle seat so flight attendants can keep a closer watch on them.
- If an incident happens, report it immediately to the flight crew and ask that they record the attacker’s identity and report the incident.
- If alerted in advance, FBI agents can be on hand when the plane lands to conduct interviews and take subjects into custody. FBI victim specialists can respond as well.
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