Sexual assaults on airplanes see dramatic rise

Aug 11, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 8:21 am


Sea-Tac International Airport (Wacamerabuff/Flickr)


Sexual assaults on airplanes are increasing, according to federal authorities.

In the last five years, cases of sexual assault and misconduct on planes have spiked 300%.

From 2019 to 2021, there was a 25% increase in investigations of sexual misconduct on planes, according to the FBI. In 2018, there were 27 sexual misconduct investigations. In 2022, that number rose to 90 investigations. So far this year, there have been 62 probes.

The FBI and federal prosecutors unveiled a new plan to address the trend Wednesday.

The “Be Air Aware” campaign wants to highlight the growing problem.

Report from Lyft: Sexual assaults rose sharply in recent years

The Port of Seattle is also hoping to raise awareness, especially as more young people and children are flying.

“Anyone who thinks that an aircraft is a place to get away with predatory behavior will meet the law,” Toshiko Hasegawa, Port of Seattle Commissioner, said Wednesday. “Our response is certain. It will be swift. And it will be severe.”

When a sexual assault takes place in the skies, it is a federal crime.

“The FBI along with our partners will investigate these crimes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman. “The United States Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Washington can and will prosecute these crimes. We will support our victims and survivors.”

Gorman said close quarters and being isolated on the plane create unique circumstances that people take advantage of.

If you think you were assaulted during a flight, you’re encouraged to alert a crew member.

More crime news: Genetic genealogy helps solve a pair of decades-old sexual assault investigations

“Victims are not responsible for what happened to them,” said Mary Ellen Stone, CEO of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. “We want to make sure that people understand that it is not the victim’s fault.”

The majority of misconduct occurs while passengers are sleeping with many cases involving drugs and alcohol. Nearly a quarter of reported victims are minors.

Contributing: Kate Stone, KIRO Newsradio; KIRO 7; The Associated Press

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Sexual assaults on airplanes see dramatic rise