A 40-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of raping a female passenger in the Business Class cabin of a United Airlines flight from Newark (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR). The alleged serious sexual assault occurred during an overnight flight on January 30 but has only now come to light.
The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that a man was arrested on suspicion of rape after the distraught victim made a complaint to flight attendants aboard the airplane.
United Airlines flight UA14 departed Newark at around 7:15 pm for the short six-hour overnight flight to London. Police officers boarded the Boeing 767 just before 7 am and took the suspect into custody.
According to The Sun, the victim didn’t know the man until shortly before the flight when they met in the United Business Class airport lounge and started drinking together. Sources say the pair continued drinking and chatting together onboard the flight.
“The woman said she was raped by the passenger during the flight while others were asleep,” the anonymous source told
“She was distraught and reported it to cabin staff who radioed ahead to police, who were waiting as the plane came in to land.”
The man was taken into custody at Heathrow Police Station where he was swabbed for forensic evidence and then interviewed by specialist officers. He has since been released under investigation as enquiries continue.
The victim was taken to a specialist sexual assault clinic where intimate evidence of the alleged crime could be recovered. Sources also claimed forensic officers carried out a detailed search of the ‘Polaris’ Business Class cabin where the crime allegedly took place.
Although allegations of inflight sexual assault remain rare, they aren’t unheard of. Victims are often scared to come forward immediately after the offence because they fear flight attendants might not believe them or that the local authorities in the country they are flying to might not take the allegation seriously.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents United’s crew members has long called for flight attendants to receive more training and support in dealing with these kinds of allegations.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “At 06:39hrs on Monday, 31 January police at Heathrow Airport were alerted to an incident on an inbound flight.”
“Officers met the aircraft on arrival and arrested a 40-year-old man on suspicion of rape. He has been released under investigation. The complainant, a 40-year-old woman, is being supported by specialist officers and enquiries are ongoing.”
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.