Today, amid ongoing reports of passengers and flight attendants suffering sexual assault on commercial airlines, a coalition of US Senators called on U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to follow through with requirements made in the 2018 spending bill to address the issue. The letter points to a 2017 survey of nearly 2,000 flight attendants in which 68% report experiencing sexual harassment, but 91.5% reported no knowledge of written guidance or training on how to handle sexual assault available through their airline.
The FBI is responsible for investigating and tracking in flight sexual assaults, reporting 63 cases in 2017, up from 38 in 2014. Airline safety advocates say those numbers are likely much higher due to the inconsistency in how airlines handle reporting of the crime.
The senators’ letter states this is why the spending bill included a requirement for the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings within DOT and the FAA to “establish federal rules and guidelines for air carriers to respond to and address sexual harassment onboard commercial aircraft.”
The letter also directs the agencies to create the National In-Flight Sexual Assault Task Force to help develop these rules and guidelines on training, reporting and data collection: “We strongly believe we must take action to address sexual assault and harassment, no matter where it occurs… The Task Force’s work is critical to informing the appropriate federal rules and guidelines to ensure the rights and health of all passengers are preserved, flight crews are trained and equipped to handle incidents of sexual assault and harassment, and the pertinent information is being reported to law enforcement to ensure justice.”
“Taking action to put in place good policy, reporting, training and other resources to eradicate sexual harassment and sexual assault from aviation is long overdue,” said Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President.
The Task Force is due to submit an initial report by September 19, 2018. The Senators urge the Task Force be established no later than June 30, 2018.
You can read the full letter to Secretary Chao here.
Previous coverage of the issue of airline sexual assaults:
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