A 51-year-old frequent flyer is suing United Airlines after she was sexually assaulted by her seatmate on a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Orlando to Denver last October. The victim says United is partially responsible because a flight attendant repeatedly served the perpetrator double servings of vodka and orange.
In a lawsuit filed in a Colorado district court, the victim claims the flight attendant gave the alleged perpetrator at least nine servings of alcohol and started to serve doubles in larger glasses as she grew ‘frustrated’ at the man’s requests for more alcohol.
United is responsible, the lawsuit claims, because the airline knows that over-serving passengers is the cause of some inflight sexual assaults, and, the suit continues, United managers are aware that the result of supplying liquor to passengers in large quantities is that their seatmates could be sexually assaulted.
The victim, who has applied to be identified only as Jane Doe, was flying in First Class between Orlando and Denver on October 2, 2022. Sitting in seat 1A at the front of the aircraft, the victim initially had a ‘pleasant conversation’ with the perpetrator sitting in 1B before he became ‘highly intoxicated’.
Once in flight, however, the “assailant requested drink after drink”, the lawsuit claims. Specifically, the assailant was drinking Screwdriver cocktails – a mix of vodka and orange juice.
Every time the flight attendant passed, the assailant would ask for another drink, causing the crew member to become frustrated at repeatedly needing to serve another drink. To avoid walking to and fro from the galley, the flight attendant started serving the assailant ‘doubles’ in larger glasses.
Soon after, the victim had to get up to use the restroom and at this point, the assailant put his hand on her back without consent. A little later, the assailant placed his hand on the victim’s leg, but despite being told to stop, the assailant continued to touch the victim.
In fact, as the flight continued, the lawsuit alleges that his unwanted touching started to escalate. At one point, the assailant even grabbed the victim’s barefoot and started to rub it, while another time, the assailant touched the victim’s back and asked to give her a massage.
The victim started to cower into the window to avoid the assailant, but this didn’t seem to stop him, as he reached over her and placed his mouth over her’s in an attempt to kiss her.
By this point, the victim was ‘petrified’ and unable to move for fear that would provoke more sexual assaults.
United refunded the victim’s ticket after hearing about what happened, and an agent even allegedly admitted that it was ‘unacceptable’ for a flight attendant to serve a passenger so much alcohol.
“United management officials know that a foreseeable consequence of supplying liquor to passengers in such large quantities that they become inebriated is that neighboring passengers will be sexually assaulted,” the lawsuit alleges.
“United’s flight attendant repeatedly served the Assailant “doubles” so that she would not have to walk over to him frequently, but in the process endangered Ms. Doe,” the lawsuit continues.
The victim says she has been left suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and now avoids air travel or any kind of social gathering, as a result of the assault.
A spokesperson for United declined to comment, citing the fact that the litigation was still 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.