A man faces a potential prison sentence of 20 years behind bars, on top of a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to interfering with a flight attendant during an American Eagle flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Little Rock, Arkansas.
Leon Anderson, 40, was originally indicted by a grand jury with one count of abusive sexual contact after repeatedly touching the male flight attendant and making sexually suggestive comments towards him.
As part of a plea agreement, Anderson pleaded guilty to the lesser crime of interfering with a flight attendant during the February 11, 2020, flight which was operated by PSA Airlines on behalf of American Airlines.
Prosecutors claim Anderson grabbed the flight attendants leg prior to the departure of flight AA5686, startling the flight attendant and causing him to turn around and confront Anderson.
Despite apologizing and claiming it was a mistake, Anderson put one of his arms around the flight attendant’s shoulder and wrapping his other arm around his waist, all whilst apologizing.
Obviously, not wanting any further contact, the flight attendant told Anderson that no further apology was needed.
That, however, didn’t stop Anderson from making “inappropriate, sexual comments” towards the flight attendant or going on to grab him a further two times in a “sexual manner”. The flight attendant notified the Captain of what was happening and law enforcement were then called to meet the aircraft on arrival.
A survey of flight attendants in 2018 revealed that one-in-five had experienced physical sexual harassment from passengers in the previous 12-months.
Over two-thirds of flight attendants who took part in the survey said they had experienced sexual harassment during their flying careers and 35 per cent had endured verbal sexual harassment in the last year.
Staggeringly, only 7 per cent of affected flight attendants had reported the abuse to their employer. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which commissioned the survey called on airlines to do more to tackle sexual harassment – both against flight attendants and passengers.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.