FBI: Number of mid-flight sexual assaults growing with 57 in 2016

Posted at 6:11 PM, Sep 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-30 03:37:57-04

DENVER — The headlines seem few and far between, but the FBI says in-flight sexual assaults are a growing problem on domestic flights. 

Most recently in August, an NBC report read that a man in his 20s inappropriately touched a young woman's legs and made unwanted advances. 

It's not unlike Allison Dvaladze's story in 2016, where she said a man next to her grabbed her crotch as she dozed off during a flight. Dvaladze spoke out in ABC sister station KOMO's report just days ago. 

"I was dozing off and I woke when the passenger next to me grabbed my crotch," Dvaladze said. "Disoriented, I yelled and hit him, and right away he grabbed me again." 

Dvaladze said she reported the assault to the crew, but eventually learned the crew did not keep any record of her sexual assault.

According to the FBI, the number of assaults investigated nationwide grew from 40 in 2015 to 57 in 2016. FBI representatives in Colorado referred Denver7 to the U.S. Attorney's Office. 

Frontier, American Airlines and Southwest all told Denver7 they do not keep statistics on in-flight sexual assaults, although Frontier Airlines provided Denver7 a statement explaining their stance on onboard incidents. 

"Crew and Passenger safety and comfort are our number one priority. Our Flight Attendants are trained how to handle any number of passenger issues or disturbances on the aircraft. While we track all onboard incidents and disturbances we cannot comment on the tracking of these incidents. When notified of an onboard sexual assault, our policies and procedures call for law enforcement officials to meet the aircraft at the destination airport; This so a police report can be filled and appropriate next steps be taken by law enforcement," Richard Oliver, with Frontier corporate communications, said.

The issue is now receiving national attention, and was even referenced in a recent letter from 26 U.S. Senators to the Department of Justice and the Federal Aviation Administration.

"As our country continues to combat the threat of violence against women, it is critical that no space be immune to the protections and support we afford survivors of sexual assault," the senators wrote. 

KOMO reached out to 14 airlines for responses to the growing problem and received seven replies. They can be read here.