United Airlines has come under public scrutiny for a variety of incidents that revealed inconsistency in policies and aircrew training – from forcing a pet into an overhead compartment where it died to physically dragging a doctor off a plane.

Now United Airlines is placed on the 2019 Dirty Dozen List, which names 12 mainstream contributors to sexual exploitation, for systemic outbreaks of inappropriate aircrew reactions to sexual harassment on their airplanes.

Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to, unwanted sexual advances or attention including physical actions, speech, and viewing pornography in-flight.

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.

For example, United Airlines appears to have struggled 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.”

Further, United Airlines appears to be 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.

When this lack of clarity and training exists, United aircrews have resorted to giving alleged “hush” money or even openly joking about a case of sexual harassment. This leaves passengers vulnerable and isolated to endure a toxic sexual environment without recourse.

It is vital that United Airlines institute in-person, annual, trainings for flight crews with tactics to respond to the full spectrum of sexual harassment and abuses. These trainings must be informed by experts in the field.

Sexual assaults on airplanes have risen dramatically. Meanwhile, flight crews are ill-prepared to handle these situations due to lack of proper training. Tell United Airlines to improve their policies to fight sexual assault!… Click To Tweet



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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

FBI Suggested Precautions for Sexual Assault on Planes

Precautions suggested by the FBI:

  • 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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It can be painful to share stories of sexual exploitation or harm, and sometimes it’s useful to focus on personal healing first. But for many, sharing their past or current experiences may be a restorative and liberating process. This is a place for those who want to express their story.


NCOSE's 2019 Victories and Highlights


STATEMENT – United Airlines, Fighting Sexual Harassment, Starts Training Crews to Stop In-Flight Porn Use

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation Applauds United Airlines for Improving Its Policy and Removes It From the Dirty Dozen List Washington, DC (February 3, 2020) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation applauds United Airlines for changing its in-person flight attendant training to include the issue of passengers using pornography on the plane. Flight…

United Airlines logo superimposed over a stock photo of the inside of an airplane passenger cabin

VICTORY: United Airlines Removed from Dirty Dozen List, Agrees to Train Crews to Stop In-Flight Porn Use

Your voice matters! With hundreds of messages flooding into United Airlines’ Customer Service line this past year while the corporation—which employs over 85,000 people worldwide and flies over 150 million customers a year—was listed on the 2019 Dirty Dozen List, United has now stepped up to combat in-flight sexual harassment and pornography use with improved training for…

United Airlines logo superimposed over a stock photo of the inside of an airplane passenger cabin

Fox Business: Porn is a problem on United Airlines so flight attendants will train to keep it off flights

Originally Published at Fox Business By Evie Fordham United Airlines promised to do more to help flight attendants keep pornography out of airplane cabins after landing on the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s “2019 Dirty Dozen List,” NCOSE announced on Monday. “Sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, intimidation or predation have absolutely no place anywhere in our society — including, and especially, in…

Fox Business logo

Two Flight Attendant Stories About Sexual Harassment on United Airlines

Excerpts from 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…

This Proposed Legislation Would Address Sexploitation in the Transportation Industry

The Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act was introduced today by Rep. Peter DeFazio, and endorsed by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a non-partisan nonprofit in Washington DC. Alarmed by incidents of sexual assault and harassment occurring in public transportation—especially on airlines—NCOSE has long advocated for the transportation sector to do more…

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