Woman claims she was sexually harassed by drunk man on United Airlines flight
A New Jersey woman claims that United Airlines flight attendants continued to serve alcohol to a visibly inebriated passenger after she complained that he sexually harassed her, according to the Huffington Post.
Jennifer Rafieyan was traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to Phoenix, Arizona, last month with her 12-year-old daughter when the drunken passenger was escorted onto the plane.
The married mother of three said crew members were clearly aware that the 64-year-old man was impaired when they seated him beside her and her child, as one attendant turned to her and said "this is going to be an interesting flight," before looking back at the man.
Another flight attendant came up to Rafieyan shortly after and said, "let me know if you need anything, I mean it," before gesturing at the drunk passenger again.
Over the course of the flight, Rafieyan says the man repeatedly groped her and rubbed her legs and knees, while occasionally kissing her hands and putting his head on her shoulder.
At one point, she says he snatched the pen and notepad out of her hands and added "PASIONAT NITE XX" to the to-do list she was writing.
"That really grossed me out," Rafieyan told the Huffington Post. "My daughter was right there."
Rafieyan said she felt too trapped to react during the incident, seeing as she couldn't leave her seat to complain and leave her daughter behind with the assailant.
"I don't react well. I freeze," she said. "When a man is inappropriate with me, I usually just run from it and maybe tell somebody. But I felt trapped. I couldn't leave the seat because I didn't trust him near my daughter."
Rafieyan finally decided to report the passenger to a crew member after her daughter got up to use the bathroom, but it did little to help her situation.
"She said, 'I'm so sorry. We felt really bad putting him next to you, but there was nothing we could do. He was doing the same kind of stuff to the other flight attendant,'" Rafieyan recalled.
Despite her complaints, Rafieyan claims the man was served an additional three whiskey drinks and a mini bottle of wine.
Eventually, the crew had to threaten him with an early landing if he didn't "cool it."
Rafieyan filed a formal complaint with United Airlines on March 29, but says she was only offered four $100 flight vouchers and a half-baked apology that didn't acknowledge the severity of the incident.
Infuriated, she reported the incident to the Department of Transportation, which said it would add the incident to its national sexual assault database.
It also encouraged Rafieyan to file a report with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, since the FBI handles allegations of sexual assault on planes.
After Rafieyan went public with her story, she received a subsequent apology from United via the Huffington Post.
"We sincerely apologize to Ms. Rafieyan and her family for their experience. We are reviewing the way that this situation was handled on board, and how our customer care team responded," a United spokeswoman told the outlet on Wednesday. "We will follow up with Ms. Rafieyan to apologize again, and discus how we could have handled this situation better."