Sexual assaults on airplanes see dramatic rise

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

holiday travel Sea-tac...

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

MyNorthwest News

thurston county rideshare driver...

Frank Sumrall

Thurston County Sheriff: Father shoots rideshare driver sexually assaulting his daughter

A father shot a rideshare driver multiple times early Saturday morning in Thurston County after catching the driver sexually assaulting his daughter.

2 hours ago

uw Primate Research Center...

Frank Sumrall

UW fires director of primate research center after state probe into program

In response to a state probe into the University of Washington's (UW) Primate Research Center, the university is making a leadership change.

5 hours ago

lake chelan pioneer fire...

Frank Sumrall

Pioneer Fire on north shore of Lake Chelan deemed ‘disaster,’ continues to spread

Fire officials in Washington are declaring the Pioneer Fire by Lake Chelan a "disaster." The fire started June 9, but has grown 3,500 acres in size since.

5 hours ago

north sound house fire...

Deborah Horne, KIRO 7 News

Man and dog perish in North Sound house fire

A North Sound neighborhood is mourning after a neighbor and his dog were killed in a house fire Friday night.

1 day ago

mount baker shooting...

Frank Sumrall

SPD searching for suspect in Mount Baker neighborhood fatal shooting

Seattle police are investigating a deadly shooting after a victim was shot in the chest at least two times. The victim later died from the injuries in a hospital.

1 day ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

1 day ago

Sexual assaults on airplanes see dramatic rise