United Airlines Notoriety Grows

United is back, but not better than ever

United Airlines is back in the news with yet another scandal of misconduct. This past Spring, several passengers came forward regarding the mistreatment they received while flying with United Airlines. The notoriety creeped into the Summer, with a complaint from a teenager, claiming she was sexually assaulted on a red eye flight, going from Seattle, Washington to Newark, New Jersey. During the course of her flight, the teenager, only 16 years old, was unaccompanied by a parent or family member. The man seated next to her, who was identified as an immigrant doctor here in the US on a fellowship program, allegedly assaulted the teenager while she slept.

She awoke to him rubbing her inner thigh and inching his fingers into her pants. The teen alerted a stewardess, who only escorted her to an empty seat a couple of rows in front of her assailant. When the plane landed, the passengers, including the doctor, exited without concern. According to the teen’s mother, who called United Airlines following a frantic call from her daughter, the airline did not exhibit proper protocol in the situation. While United Airlines has not revealed what steps are incorporated into this protocol, the airline did advise the teen’s mother that she was the first person to notify them of the incident.

The family of the assaulted teen has gained legal representation for the matter, and holds United Airlines responsible for allowing the man to walk free off the plane. Due to the rising recognition that the teen was touched inappropriately, that same day, the FBI arrested a suspect. The individual, who was the doctor allegedly seated next to the teen on the red eye flight, is charged with one count of abusive sexual contact on an airplane. He could face two years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and may be deported.

While it is unfortunate that the man found within himself the audacity to grope a sleeping teenager, it is more alarming that United Airlines did not attempt any courses of action to protect her.