Woman sexually assaulted on American Airlines flight got no help from crew, suit says
By KALEY JOHNSON | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Published: September 7, 2019
FORT WORTH, Texas (Tribune News Service) — A Houston woman said she was sexually assaulted on a flight to Paris operated by American Airlines and received no help from flight attendants or crew members, according to a lawsuit.
The woman originally filed a lawsuit against Iberia Airlines and American Airlines in May in Tarrant County court. On Tuesday, the case was moved to U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth. Neither airline responded to the original suit, according to the lawsuit.
The Star-Telegram is not naming the woman because it does not identity victims of alleged sexual assault.
In response to the suit, an American Airlines representative said in a statement the company is committed "to providing a safe, positive travel experience for all of our customers."
In May 2017, the woman said, she and her husband were traveling to Paris on an Iberia Airlines flight operated by American Airlines. When she got on the plane, she took a pain reliever that had been prescribed after a recent surgery.
The man next to her talked with her until she covered herself with a blanket and fell asleep, she said in the suit. Her husband was seated several rows away, according to the lawsuit.
She woke up to a sharp pain in her vaginal area and was facing the man next to her, who had put his hand in her vaginal area, according to the lawsuit. She tried to remove his hand, but he made a threatening gesture to silence her, the suit says.
The woman eventually escaped from her seat and told crew members what happened. They told her nothing could be done until the plane landed and she could not change seats because the flight was overbooked, she said.
The woman went back to sit by the man, where she "silently sobbed and attempted to calm herself in order to not alarm her husband who was sleeping," the suit says.
When the flight landed, the crew did not try to apprehend the man, the lawsuit said.
The woman was not emotionally able to stay on the trip with her family and made an excuse to leave. She messaged Iberia Airlines about the attack, and the airline offered to change her return flight for free, the lawsuit states.
Once back in the United States, the woman told American Airlines about the attack, but was not offered help, according to the lawsuit.
"If our crews discover or are told about any alleged illegal misconduct on the aircraft, law enforcement is contacted and will meet the aircraft upon arrival," the statement from American Airlines said. "It is up to law enforcement to determine whether any criminal activity took place."
On Aug. 20, a woman filed a suit against American Airlines, saying a man assaulted her after flight attendants over served him.
According to the FBI, in-flight sexual assaults rose from 2014 to 2017. In fiscal year 2014, 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault were reported to the FBI. In the 2017 fiscal year, that number increased to 63 reported cases. Reported assaults dropped to 39 in the 2018 fiscal year, the New York Times reported.
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