A man has been sentenced to six months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to groping an American Airlines flight attendant during an August 2021 flight from Cancun to Miami.
Canadian citizen Enio Socorro Zayas, 50, entered a plea agreement in October in which he admitted to one count of assault within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.
A U.S. federal judge sentenced Zayas on Monday, sending him to prison for six months and putting him under supervised release for a further year.
An FBI affidavit submitted to the court alleged that Zayas groped a female flight attendant during American Airlines flight AA1723 from Mexico to Florida on August 6, 2021.
Zayas was apparently asleep when the flight attendants were carrying out the service so the victim left some snacks in his lap and carried on serving other passengers. She then felt a hand “grip the bottom of her thigh and move upwards towards the lower portion of her buttocks before rubbing firmly from side to side.”
The flight attendant turned around and reprimanded Zayas, while other passengers came forward as witnesses.
In 2018, a major survey of U.S. flight attendants found that two thirds had experienced sexual harassment during their flying careers and nearly one-in-five had experienced physical sexual harassment from passengers in the previous 12 months.
Worrying, 68% of flight attendants said they didn’t see their airlines making efforts to address workplace sexual harassment.
Last year, the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio introduced the Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act in an effort to protect passengers and airline staff from sexual assault.
The law would require airlines and other public transport operators to establish formal policies, training, and reporting structures regarding sexual assault and harassment and would also introduce a new range of civil penalties for perpetrators.
The Department of Transporation would also be required to develop its own definition of sexual asault and to then, for the first time, start collating data on reported sexual assaults.
The bill was submitted last October but has not progressed any further.
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.