Bill aims to fight sexual harassment on flights

Flight attendants announce airplane safety rules for a reason.

Flight attendants announce airplane safety rules for a reason.

A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., aims to fight sexual harassment on airline flights, an issue flight attendants say is common.

In a survey by the Association of Flight Attendants union, 68 percent of flight attendants said they had experienced sexual harassment in their careers.

More than one-third said they had experienced verbal sexual harassment and 18 percent said they had been physically sexually harassed by passengers in the last year.

And, "harassment makes it more difficult for flight attendants to intervene when passengers are harassed by other passengers," according to the union's president Sara Nelson in a written statement.

The federal legislation would require airlines to establish a policy on sexual assault or harassment incidents and require a statement advising passengers how to report sexual assault or harassment.

It would also add sexual assault to the definition of interference with a crewmember, which is federally prohibited, and it would increase the maximum penalty for crewmember interference to $35,000 from $25,000.

In the survey of 3,500 flight attendants Feb. 27 to March 26, 2018, flight attendants said they often dealt with harassment by avoiding interacting with abusive passengers.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents flights attendants at American Airlines, said it often gets reports “of passengers physically touching flight attendants in inappropriate ways and passengers touching other passengers in ways that can only be considered abusive,” according to written statement from the union’s national president Nena Martin. “Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, but when you’re working at 30,000 feet and crossing state and international borders, clear policies must be established to prevent incidents of midair sexual assault.”