On Tuesday morning, a 22-year-old woman named Tia Jackson boarded a Spirit Airlines flight from Detroit from Atlanta. While dozing, she says she noticed the man next to her touch her thigh. She moved away, but alleges that once she did “he slid his hands in my pants and then he touched my thigh and then part of my butt.” She told People that he was also “pleasuring himself” beneath his jacket.
When she told a flight attendant, Jackson alleges she was told, “‘If he keeps touching you, you should move.’ I’m like, ‘That’s crazy.’ They basically told me to sit back down and I had to make a scene.”
She reported the incident to police at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, according to People. “Spirit was acting like they weren’t going to do anything about it,” she said. “Even the pilot told me to go into the airport towards the front desk to ask for police assistance.”
Jackson’s story comes alongside a set of similar reports of sexual assaults on planes. Last month, two women filed lawsuits against Frontier Airlines for failing to take action in two separate instances of assault by male passengers during flights in October and November 2018. One of those women said she was not allowed to switch seats and was not given her assailant’s name. Both say they asked Frontier to share its sexual assault policy but never received a response. In November 2019, a 32-year-old man was charged with sexually assaulting a woman on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, NC to Salt Lake City after grabbing her crotch, The New York Times reported. The trip was diverted to Tulsa, Oklahoma after the incident. In March 2019, a lawsuit filed in New York federal court alleged that two JetBlue pilots drugged and raped three flight attendants in May 2018, during a layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The number of reports appears to be on the rise: In 2014, 38 reported cases of in-flight sexual assault were reported to the FBI. In 2017, there were 63 cases. Those numbers don’t account for unreported cases. It’s impossible to know whether the increased number is due to a rise in assaults in the air or increased reporting of such incidents.
A spokeswoman for Frontier told NBC, “the safety of our passengers and crew members is our No. 1 priority at Frontier Airlines and we have strict policies in place to proactively and appropriately respond to reports of misconduct and alleged crimes,” but would not comment on the litigation. American Airlines told The Times it was “grateful for the crew’s response in... requesting law enforcement and diverting the aircraft.” A JetBlue spokesperson also said they couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation, but “the company “takes allegations of violent or inappropriate behavior very seriously and investigates such claims thoroughly.” Still, it doesn’t doesn’t appear as though any airline has responded to the allegations by instituting new safety policies or protocols.
“This is sad nobody did anything! Nobody called the police nothing!!,” Jackson wrote on her Instagram page following the alleged assault. “You will be hearing from my lawyer.”