Dana LaRue says she was sexually assaulted on a Spirit Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Chicago.
Her story may sound familiar because LaRue publishes a popular bridal blog, and it’s been picked up by several other media outlets. What you might not know is that, at the urging of my readers, I’ve been trying to help her get in touch with Spirit to resolve her complaint.
Before I explain why I got involved in this case, let’s hit the highlights.
LaRue says she was sitting next to a man named “Jim” who waited until after she fell asleep to make his move.
I awoke at one point to feel Jim’s hand … high on my upper, inner thigh. I thought it possible that it slipped down there while he was asleep, given the narrow nature of the seats on the craft, so I moved my leg away and went back to sleep.
A while later, I awoke to find him pressed up against my arm, one hand on my leg, the other hand fumbling around my breasts.
Highly inappropriate, to say the least.
You’d think LaRue would scream bloody murder. But she didn’t.
I was paralyzed with confusion and fear. I startled physically, hard enough that he removed his hands and shifted away. I couldn’t bring myself look at him. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
LaRue waited until the flight ended to report the alleged assault.
Spirit’s response? “I am sorry for the inconvenience, but because you failed to report it in-flight, there is nothing we can do for you,” a representative told her.
That really set LaRue off. She blogged about the incident, generating a firestorm of anger toward Spirit and sympathy for her.
It’s too easy to be the Monday morning quarterback on LaRue’s case. Yes, she should have said something sooner. And for future reference — and in case anyone is reading this who may be the future target of a sexual predator — report the incident immediately if you can.
But the problem, as I saw it, was that LaRue wasn’t really talking to Spirit, and Spirit wasn’t really talking to LaRue. The blogger was trying to spread the word about her alleged assault, and Spirit was sending her form responses. I thought I might help them connect in a more meaningful way.
I asked LaRue to tell me how Spirit could fix this.
She asked for Spirit to formally apologize for its representatives’ “insensitivity and delay in response to me.” LaRue also asked Spirit to say what it intends to do to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.
She asked to be rebooked on another return flight, to be compensated for the lost work ($1,800) and for the airline to cover her therapy bills ($220).
I passed these demands along to Spirit without comment.
The initial response from Spirit was promising. It offered to refund her return flights and sent her a non-form response saying it was considering the rest.
I have received your email. I am not authorized to approve everything you’ve requested, but I will get back to you.
Again, I am truly sorry that you had such a terrifying experience.
But later, Spirit refused to rebook her on another airline, and signaled it wouldn’t meet any of her other demands. I made several attempt to communicate with Spirit on LaRue’s behalf, but couldn’t connect with the airline, presumably because of the hurricane.
LaRue was frustrated.
While its reassuring that I won’t have to put my or my family’s safety in their hands, I’m still left with this vacuum of pain and loss and anger.
I still feel they should do more to make this right, beyond these refunds and potentially paying the difference to book onto different airlines.
I feel like this is just a poor pacification to protect their public relations. To shut up a mouthy girl like me.
Did Spirit do enough by refunding her nonrefundable fare and apologizing to her? Or should it have done more?
My initial response to this case is that Spirit can’t be held responsible for the actions of one of its passengers. But on reflection, I’m not sure. Some might say Spirit’s risque ad campaigns give passengers like “Jim” a license to grab any female passenger he wants, without consequence.