A United Airlines passengers says that as she and her 12-year-old daughter were in their seats awaiting their plane to take off from Newark to Phoenix, they noticed a flight attendant assist a visibly drunk man into the empty aisle seat next to them.
Jennifer Rafieyan, the traveler, says that the man was so intoxicated that the attendant was guiding him by the hips. She also says that two attendants warned her about the man.
“[One attendant] made some comment to me like, ‘This is going to be an interesting flight,’ and looked at him” the 47-year-old married mother of three said. “And then the other flight attendant came up and said, ‘Let me know if you need anything. I mean it’ and she looked at him.”
During the hour that followed, Rafieyan says that the 64-year-old drunk man repeatedly groped her and sexually harassed her. He reportedly rubbed her legs, grabbed her knew, and kissed her hands. He also put his head on her shoulder and even grabbed her notepad and pen in order to scratch “PASIONAT NITE XX” on her to do list.
“That really grossed me out,” Rafieyan said. “My daughter was right there.”
“I don’t react well. I freeze,” she said. “When a man is inappropriate with me, I usually just run from it and maybe tell somebody. But I felt trapped. I couldn’t leave the seat because I didn’t trust him near my daughter.
When her daughter asked to use the bathroom, Rafieyan says he used the opportunity to leave her seat and report the matter to the flight attendants, who did not appear surprised by her story. “She said, ‘I’m so sorry. We felt really bad putting him next to you, but there was nothing we could do. He was doing the same king of stuff to the other flight attendant.'”
She also claims that even after her complaint the flight attendant served the man three more whiskey drinks and a small bottle of wine. He subsequently became angry, accusing several others of stealing his passport and refused to take his seat until the attendant vowed that she would divert the plane and land early.
Rafieyan filed an official complaint with the carrier after her ordeal. She received “a form letter saying my feedback would help them improve services.”
“I’m sorry for your family’s disappointing and uncomfortable flight to Phoenix,” United’s letter said. “As a gesture of goodwill, a separate email with four electronic travel certificates will arrive soon to make amends.”
Rafieyan said that the airline was “in clear violation of two FAA safety regulations.” She says that she won’t be using her “goodwill” voicher and instead plans to push for changes at the airline.
“I want to know why they broke them and why that was justified, and I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she said.