Two women who allege they were sexually assaulted on Frontier Airlines flights in two separate 2018 incidents are suing the airline for failing to take action.
In the suit, both women say that they were sexually assaulted by male passengers over the course of their flights in unrelated encounters. The first incident took place in October 2018 and the second in November of the same year. Following the alleged sexual assaults, each woman said she reported the assault to flight attendants who failed to report to police or assist in gathering evidence. One victim claims she was not permitted to changes seats after reporting the assault and was not given her assailant’s name; she also alleges that no attempt was made to collect evidence from nearby passengers who may have witnessed the assault. Both victims say that their request for documentation of Frontier’s sexual assault policies and procedures were ignored.
The lawsuit states Frontier Airlines fails “to have and/or follow policies and procedures to prevent, report, and respond to sexual assault of its passengers on its flights” and asks for class-action status. A spokesperson for Frontier counters that the airline has “strict policies in place to proactively and appropriately respond to reports of misconduct and alleged crimes.”
However, putting policies in writing and actually adhering to those policies when passengers are assaulted are often two different things. 2019 has been rife with stories about passengers and even employees being sexually assaulted and harassed aboard airplanes. In March, JetBlue was accused of failing to protect flight attendants who were allegedly drugged and raped by pilots and then refused to take action against the pilots. In October, a woman aboard a Virgin Atlantic flight reported that a rugby team on the same flight used the airline’s seat-to-seat chat feature to harass her with sexually explicit messages. In that instance, flight attendants did speak to the men, who stopped sending messages.
According to CNN, even the FBI has acknowledged the increase in reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault aboard airplanes:
“FBI investigations into midair sexual assaults increased by 66% from fiscal year 2014 to 2017. The bureau said it had opened 63 investigations into sexual assault on aircraft in 2017, compared with 57 in 2016, 40 in 2015 and 38 in 2014.”
The FBI says that most of the incidents happen on red-eye overnight flights when cabins are typically darkened and passengers are more likely to consume alcohol. However, it seems unlikely that mid-air assaults have just suddenly increased for no reason. Much more likely is a higher instance of reporting and greater likelihood that victims insist on getting authorities involved.