As they say, when it rains, it pours. United Airlines is facing another allegation of mishandling a contentious situation—this time involving a woman who alleges she was groped by another passenger. United’s response? To keep serving the perpetrator more alcohol and offer the woman four $100 vouchers for free flights as an apology.
Jennifer Rafieyan was traveling with her 12-year-old daughter on a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Phoenix, Arizona, last month when a man who was already visibly drunk took the seats next to her. The 47-year-old mother of three says this is when her ordeal began. The man began to grope and harass her. The incident lasted around an hour with the passenger rubbing her legs, grabbing her knee and writing "PASIONAT NITE XX" on her notepad, Rafieyan told theHuffington Post. It wasn’t until her daughter went to the bathroom that Rafieyan was able to get up and notify a flight attendant. According to the Huffington Post, “She said, ‘I’m so sorry. We felt really bad putting him next to you, but there was nothing we could do.'” However, even after she reported the incident, the flight attendants continued to serve the inebriated man drinks.
As many sexual assault victims will tell you, during uncomfortable situations, their minds freeze. Rafieyan reported the same feeling, which is why she didn’t respond by yelling or screaming. “I don’t react well. I freeze…. I felt trapped. I couldn’t leave the seat because I didn’t trust him near my daughter."
It is prohibited by the FAA to let intoxicated passengers board any flight, but the alleged assaulter was clearly already drunk prior to boarding, according to Patch. Rafieyan reports that the passenger was led onto the plane by his hips, because he wasn't stable enough on his own. In fact, the passenger did not even begin his lecherous acts with Rafieyan. According to Rafieyan, a flight attendant was a victim of the man's behavior well before takeoff. With all the drinks in his system, he steadily became more belligerent, at which point a flight attendant had to threaten to divert the plane.
Rafieyan filed a formal complaint with the company on March 29, to which United’s customer service team responded with four $100 vouchers without so much as acknowledging the groping incident. Angered, Rafieyan has now filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation and the FAA. A United Airlines spokesman responded to Huffington Post, apologizing for the situation and the subsequent response. “We sincerely apologize to Ms. Rafieyan and her family for their experience," he said. "We are reviewing the way that this situation was handled on board, and how our customer care team responded. We will follow up with Ms. Rafieyan to apologize again, and discuss how we could have handled this situation better.”
United has been facing considerable backlash lately, following the release of the now viral video of a doctor being pulled from a plane to make room for United employees, which itself followed ANOTHER scandal involving the airline, whereby two underage girls were told they could not board a plane due to “inappropriate attire,” aka leggings. Something tells me this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing of United’s policy issues.