Is this enough compensation? Assaulted on my flight — and then ignored

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.

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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.

132 thoughts on “Is this enough compensation? Assaulted on my flight — and then ignored

  1. I’m calling BS on the $1800 for ‘lost work’. Is this figure from the time spent complaining and blogging about it or what? And is she out of work for 2 whole weeks because of this?

    Besides, what exactly is Spirit supposed to do? It was the passenger next to her, not a flight attendant or anyone/anything related to the airline? If anything, she should have tried to catch him (not hard at the time) or track him down to and go to court. Compensation from Spirit is greedy and she doesn’t really provide justification for this either.

      1. Compassion and compensation are not the same thing, you know.
        If you want Spirit to say sorry for something they weren’t responsible for, then fine (although sort of silly). But when you ask for money, that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with compassion.

          1. Spirit has exactly what responsibility, being told after the fact when everyone is gone?!?!?  What exactly are they going to do?  Just hand some lady a fat check?

            Come on.

          2. I don’t see how Spirit is responsible.  I was assaulted, when I was 5 months pregnant, on a bus and I did not blame or ask compensation from RTD.  The man that assaulted me was responsible and since I was able to report is quickly he was arrested.  I know it is horrible what she went through, but her anger is misguided.

      2. If I’m ever assaulted you’ll hear about it immediately.  That sicko is going to land zip-tied to a seat I’m gonna make so much noise.  What the hell is wrong with people??  Frozen in fear?  Give me a break.

        She’s looking for a pay day.

        1. I’ve been sexually assaulted before (although not on a plane)- and I can confirm that you most certainly CAN be “paralyzed with fear” when it happens to you.  It’s better if you can make a scene about it, but sometimes your brain goes into “flight” instead of “fight”.  I think Spirit should do more to track down this loser (they have to have his name and address!) for prosecution, or at least for the no-fly list!  The airline should also try and show that it will not tolerate its passengers being sexually assaulted in any way.  To fail to do that, especiallly coupled with Spirit’s sexually charged ads, only creates an impression that Spirit doesn’t care to protect women on its flights. 

          1. Can you imagine if the airlines “policed” their flights and added people to the “no-fly” with every alleged grope.  Imagine your husband or your father told they were blacklisted because of an alleged claim.  What if you accidentally fell asleep on someone and they felt violated and reported you. 
            The police, judge and jury are responsible for bringing this awful man to justice.  If Dana wants compensation she should sue “Jim”.

          2. The Department of Justice maintains that sex crimes are grievously underreported and that frivolous claims are rare. Most people find the reporting process humiliating and traumatic. I do think some form of verification would be appropriate, but frankly I would feel safer if airlines DID blacklist known sex offenders.

      3. And if you are sexually assaulted, you don’t wait until after the assault, to complain to a third party, and not go after the guilty one!

        1. What, she should complain to a thrid party during the middle of the assault? Before the assult? Of course you have to wait until the assault is over. Unless you’re gifted at seeing the future, I suppose.

          Don’t complain to a 3rd party? What are the police? A third party. What good will it do to complain to the instigator? Do you think he cares what she thinks? He wouldn’t be doing it if he did.

          Does she have the name/contact information about the male? If not, how should she go about pressing charges when she doesn’t even know who he is? Has Sprint given out that information in case she wants to pursue charges?

          What should she have done during the flight? Scream and make a fuss? Maybe, although every person reacts differently. What if there weren’t empty seats available? They would have to find someone willing to sit by the alleged perp for the duration of the flight. I don’t know about you but I sure wouldn’t volunteer for that honor. What if the flight attendent didn’t believe her? You could have one of those people who brushes it off in the interest of not upsetting a group of people. Then she would be stuck sitting next to a guy who already proved himself untrustworthy and hope he doesn’t make your flight any worse.

          1. The time to get Spirit (3rd party) involved was while the attack was happening. At the very least, get up and go speak to a flight attendant in private. Yes, she would have had to wait until the attack was over, but it’s over when you end it.

            Police are not considered a third party in a criminal investigation.

            Spirit cannot release the man’s information to anyone, even police, without a subpena.

            If the flight attendant was aware of the allegation and did nothing, Dana would have a case. Correct procedure is to difuse the situation. Flight attendant would have advised the captain who would have called ahead for law enforcement in Chicago. There may have been law enforcement on board. If one was traveling on duty, the Captain and crew would have known. The LEO would have sat with the alleged molester until the plane was met. There may have been an airline employee on board who would have been asked by the Captain to sit with the molester while Dana got a new seat. Perhaps an off duty flight attendant or pilot was on board who would have been asked to give up their seat for Dana and fly in a jump seat…lots of what ifs.

          2. The police do not need his name.  THEY CAN AREST HIM.  The crew had no idea that she allowed it to happen a 2nd time by not saying anything.  If she got up and said something she could have been in a different seat or switched with a 300 lb hairy guy that JIM could feel upand then take a hit from.  SHE LET IT HAPPEN BY NOT SAYING ANYTHING UNTIL SHE WANTED THE  $$$$$$$

          3. Dillon, if you read her blog, she was looking for “compassion” from Spirit AFTER calling their 800 number AFTER leaving the aiport. She didn’t feel she got compassion and NOW wants $$$. 

            She has contacted the police but was too consumed with ranting about Spirit’s poor customer service she neglected to say if she followed up with the police…but did indicate they were compassionate.

            The police DO need his name if they want to arrest him or at least follow up on the complaint now. An airline can only do that with a court order.

             

          4. No they are NOT a third party.  They are direct response teams, as are ALL the police who would have been contacted before the landing, or at the airport.  Calling RESERVATIONS afterwards is the 3rd party with NO KNOWLEDGE of the event, NO OPTIONS to assist, and NO WAY to accommodate this woman.  THAT’s what is ridiculous!

    1. How about a soccer punch to his privates when she  awoke and find his hand on her body? and a “Oh gee, so sorry, I must have been asleep?”

      1. Should have said a sucker punch not a soccer punch. My apologies to all soccer fans. I was just waking up…….

  2. Seems like the correct person to be going after is the attacker. Why is his identity a sidebar to this story? If she wants to press charges against him, and she should, then Spirit should be cooperating in getting his identity to the police. 

    Spirit’s crappy advertising makes them an easy target. That doesn’t mean they did the crime. 

  3. I’m sure everyone feels badly that this happened to her, but how is this Spirit’s fault?  Why are they responsible for her “lost work” or anything at all?  It’s not like they knowingly sat her next to a sexual pervert and it’s not like she told them anything so they could do something about it.

  4. She should be talking to the FBI, not the stewardess or the customer service rep. Spirit said it would co-operate with a criminal investigation, but likely can’t give up the passengers name without a court order. Something tells me this blogger is more interested in drama than justice.

  5. Elliot- I am wondering, based on recent responses and survey results, that you have garnered a following of travel industry employees who seem to be advising you NOT to get in the ‘middle of things’ when you probably should …. In the end, we, the faithful readers, will leave it up to your good judgement….

    1. WHAT?  I’m not employed by anybody in the ‘travel industry’ and I’m agreeing with many of the past few ‘should I get involved’ votes that advise against him getting more involved.  Watch where you slap that paint brush.

      1. He said he was “wondering,” and expressing an opinion. He never said it was a FACT, so maybe you should watch where you slap that brush.

  6. “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.”

    Why aren’t you sure? Can you give a reason that Spirit should take responsibility for the passenger’s actions?
    (Not saying that there cannot be any, but I have a hard time seeing it. I doubt that Spirit had any idea that this happened, much less that it was at fault).

    1. I don’t think it was Spirit’s “fault” but they do have the responsibility for creating a safe and secure environment for their passengers. That doesn’t just include the integrity of the actual plane and it’s mechanical works. I would contend that their rules on when you can and cannot get up, what you can and cannot bring on board, how much alcohol you can consume, etc., enforces that claim. People’s behavior on board is regulated by the airlines, and when a dangerous situation results, it is partly their responsibility!

      1. All of the examples you offer have an element to them that informs the airline of their existence, i.e. you can see people getting up and down, the things they carry on or the effect that alcohol is having on them. This is what’s lacking in this case. Now, had an employee somehow been made aware at the time of the assault (whether by the victim, another passenger or by personally witnessing the event), I’d agree with you. But as it stands, it’s a “he said, she said” and my guess is even the police or FBI would be unable to do anything more.

  7. Though I sympathize with Ms. LaRue, who is likely the victim of a crime, her anger is misplaced.  Indeed, she should have reported the issue immediately, allowing for the airline personnel to alert the authorities and potentially catch the perpetrator.   Once the individual who committed the act was gone, expecting the airline to fix the issue is unreasonable.  It’s not the airline’s responsibility to compensate her for anything unless they were a party to the issue – the event merely happening on their plane does not make them a party to the issue.

    Chris, this is the second day in a row that your column smacks of self-promotion by individuals who don’t really have problems that you should be addressing.

    1. “Chris, this is the second day in a row that your column smacks of self-promotion by individuals who don’t really have problems that you should be addressing.”
      I tend to agree with that statement : although it makes for interesting reading (I don’t dare use the word entertaining today), it does tend to be a little far from what you usually do !…

    2. The statute of limitations on sexual assault is more than a few hours for a reason. She had no obligation to report while still in the vicinity of the assaulter. PERIOD.

      1. Unless matters have changed since I retired (must research), i can say that in Canada there is no statute of limitations on sexual assault.  Judges will and have put away 90-year olds for assaults they committed in their 20s.

        1. As they should. Sexual assault has a profound and lasting impact on victims’ lives and by placing a statute of limitations on reporting, we in the US are saying that, although the consequences of the assault will stay with the victim forever (even if she/he is able to heal), the attacker need only be held responsible for a few years (10 in most jurisdictions here in the states, for first-degree rape).

      2. Michelle, I respectfully disagree.  If she wanted something done, she had a requirement to report it while it was still possible to identify him, and for the police to seize him.  Reporting it hours later when he was long gone, to people that had nothing to do with it, was useless.  She basically let a sex criminal go free.  She didn’t have to make a scene, or do anything to put herself in jeopardy – she could have quietly left her seat and gone to the front or back of the plane to inform a crew member.  But sitting quietly next to her attacker for hours?  I’m sorry…that’s on her.

        At this point her only recourse is to attempt to have his identity given to law enforcement so he can be questioned.  IMO, Spirit has a responsibility to give his identity to the appropriate agency for a criminal investigation.

        1.  “while it was still possible to identify him,”

          The man was seated next to her on a plane. That definitively narrows the list of suspects down in a hurry.

      3. Michele, 
        I don’t disagree with you. A victim of sexual assault should report it, even it if happened in the past. I think its unfair to “criticize” LaRue for not taking immediate action. While many readers here would have screamed, or fought back, many victims of sexual abuse are afraid to take action at the time of the attack.

        However, I agree with LeeAnne. By not reporting the event until after she left the airport, the window of opportunity for action has greatly diminished. Had she notified a FA, a Police Officer could have been there at the gate to take a report, and determine further action. 

  8. My question is why didn’t she demand the police to be called when she reported the incident.  They can’t refuse to do that.

    1. I agree! Even if she were “paralyzed with fear” (and frankly, I’ve been groped worse than that by drunken fools at Rock Concerts and bars and a sharp elbow or a nice stomp on the instep works wonders) once the plane taxied and people began to stand and her “paralysis” wore off, why didn’t she announce “that man assaulted me, please stop him from leaving” and request police?  She wasn’t isolated; she was on a plane full of people….what did she think would happen if she confronted him? I’d be more afraid that he’d take my silence as some form of assent.  An apology for the lack of a compassionate response, maybe.  Money? No.  

  9. Sexual assault is a criminal act.  She should pursue it through legal channels.  Spirit would have record of the person sitting next to her.
    Reading her blogpost, she notified Spirit as soon as she was off the plane, because the “assaulter” was continuing on Spirit to another destination.  She was calling out Spirit as enabling the attacker.
    Which, in a sense, it was.

      1. Isn’t she the enabler by not contacting the police? Shouldn’t she be in contact with law enforcement seeking to catch the perpetrator, rather than calling customer service and asking for money? Seem she’s the one who could care less if other women were abused.

  10. From the “Never Judge a Book By Its Cover” File, I have to admit, when I saw the phrases “is this enough compensation?” and “Spirit Airlines” in the same article, my initial thought had to be “heck no!”

    But, I am with the others who wonder how this could be Spirit’s fault.  If she had reported this to a flight attendant as it was happening, the alleged assaulter could have been re-seated and held for questioning upon the flight’s arrival.  Authorities could have been contacted, etc.  Now, she feels that Spirit is somehow responsible for this?  Come on.

    I am all on the bash Spirit wagon, as they are usually in the wrong, but this just smells funny.

  11. Airports have one of the highest concentrations of law enforcement personnel in America. Police, TSA, FBI, and many others. Why did she not contact them instead of the stewardess. Catching a sex criminal would be a feather in the cap of one of those cops, but the stewardess is really off duty once the door opens.

  12. I agree that Spirit should not have ignored Ms LaRue and sent her a form letter as an aswer but after reading the whole article it doesn’t sound like she contacted the airline directly in the first place. I cannot imagine what it must be like for Ms. LaRue and feel sorry about what happened to her. That being said what is the airline supposed to do after the fact. They got her to her destination, had she reported the incident in flight and then been ignored then she should definitely be compensated. Also has she even spoken to authorities and placed a compaint? If she is so freely sharing this information with the internet why not contact the authorities first before Spirit.

  13. She should have reported it to the flight crew immediately and followed up with law enforcement.

    She didn’t do that, and this was her responsibility.

    Asking for free tickets because you were fondled?  Why isn’t she asking the passenger who fondled her for compensation?  HE did it not Spirit Airlines. In my opinion Spirit Airlines doesn’t owe her a thing.  She’s barking up the wrong tree.

      1. This times 1000. 

        Unless Spirit was negligent in some way that we don’t know about from this story that proximately caused the assault, Spirit is not responsible.  Just because something happens on someone else’s property does not automatically make that person or company responsible for your damages.  Hire an attorney, get a prelitigation subpoena issued and pursue the actual wrongful party instead of the wrong party with the deep pockets.

        This has nothing to do with a lack of compassion but Ms. LaRue is seeking recompense from the wrong party.  

  14. I can’t help but feel had the OP let the staff know what was happening when it happened, there might have been law enforcement waiting at the gate when they landed to detain the guy.  By doing nothing, she really took matters out of the hands of people who could do something.

    I can understand being afraid and more than a little paralyzed but she said absolutely nothing until she was at the point of, “Thanks for flying with Spirit Airlines”.

    As someone who went through something similar (though not in the air and not as overt) I can really understand the feelings of violation she is going through so I don’t take this lightly.  She should have said something and asked to be moved.

    As it is, she’s been compensated enough.  Spirit did get her to where she needed to go.

  15. Keeping quiet creates a real issue. It is now her word against his. Hard to press charges on that or even sue.

    Here’s hoping that her blogging and going public will speed her healing. It is understandable that groggy and in shock she was quiet then, but good that she is talking now.

    The airline was not the bad guy however and she made it impossible for them to help. So her anger needs to focus elsewhere. Hopefully her experience will let other women know to speak up. 

  16. Here’s my number one in a long list of things reasons I think Spirit is wrong: the “we can’t do anything because she didn’t report it in flight.” Anyone who has ever been a victim, known a victim, or had any education in or knowledge of how sexual assault works would know that a HUGE number of women are unable to report their assault immediately (if ever)–ESPECIALLY when the perpetrator is still in the vicinity (much less when they are in a closed metal tube with the XXXX[insert your own preferred expletive here] they can’t get out of. That’s all I’m going to say here about the psychological and sociological problems with the “you didn’t tell us when we wanted you to tell us” BS, but I could go on for days. Spirit was not only insensitive, but they are perpetuating very bad, very dangerous behavior. They are responsible for some level of the safety and security of their passengers.

    I don’t really know what the $1,800 lost work is for, but I do know that unless she spent lots of time negotiating with Spirit and can document the lost wages from her interactions with them, she should be getting the $1,800 in the form of punitive damages from the assaulter through criminal restitution or through a civil suit.

    In good faith, however, and the interest of good customer service and a message to current and future assaulters, they should (a) refund her money plus some agreed-upon level of compensation; and (b) seek out the jerk that sat next to her (because they KNOW who he is), tell him a complaint has been filed, and tell him he is barred from flying Spirit in the future. Releasing his name probably opens them to a liability suit, but taking the step and doing it publicly (without the name), would be a good start.

    1. Yes to everything you said!  This happened to me many years ago on an eight-hour overseas flight and I didn’t know what to do, particularly as the assailant appeared to be a citizen of the same nationality as the airline on which I was flying and that country was not, to say the least, known for its record on gender equality. She was safer not reporting the incident immediately; what if the flight attendants had been unwilling to move her to a new seat and she’d had to spend the rest of the flight right next to the assailant? And even now, to which police should she report it – Los Angeles, Chicago, or the FBI since the plane was in the air?  I do think that she should go after the man; the police could order Spirit to reveal the passenger’s name and address and in addition to federal or state prosecution, she could slap him with a civil suit.  But Spirit’s advertising does incite this kind of behavior, and a class action (ACLU?) suit might also be a possibility.

    2. Well, I disagree.  Spirit should not refund her money.  The jerk should.  And liability suits are phenomenally expensive, and as far as I can see, ridiculous in this case.

      Here’s what she should have done, and I actually did this on the DC Metro when a man exposed himself (I was on the inside seat and trapped):  I stood up screaming “This man just unzipped his pants and pulled out his penis!”  The guy had nowhere to go, because the doors had just closed.  At least 3 people surrounded him and waited for Metro police.

      Spirit has no liability and can’t screen for perverts.

      1. EXACTLY.  As much as Michelle can say that the accuser has nowhere to go in a “closed metal tube,” the converse is true, as well.  The alleged perpetrator also has nowhere to run, and should the woman start screaming, would have quite a few people on that aircraft to deal with….plus law enforcement on the other end.  

        I think the part of the story that no one will ever know is just how much alcohol was consumed before the guy ever got on a flight.  I fly pretty extensively, and the behavior sounds a lot like “liquid courage.”

        Unlike others who have posted above, I don’t think that she should have hit the guy with her shoe (or physically assaulted the guy in any way – remember when your mother told you that two wrongs don’t make a right?), but screaming at the top of her lungs would have brought about the absolute correct resolution.

    3. Look, I sympathize for the victim here.  But I don’t see that Spirit has done anything wrong.  How is Spirit, in any way, shape, or form, supposed to verify the complaint?  To any degree?  How are they supposed to distinguish a genuine complaint from some random schmoe who wants a check?

      You are asking Spirit to pay out cash and ban a customer for life based on zero evidence.

      If she engages a lawyer, and successfully obtains a subpeona for the passenger’s name, of course Spirit should cooperate.  But other than that, I don’t see that Spirit should be doing anything.

    4. All in all I agree and I thank you for this, but I still really don’t think the airline should compensate her beyond refunding her ticket (which was nice of them). You talk about sending a message to future assaulters, but if I were a future assaulter, the message I would get from the airline agreeing to all her requests would be that I’m not accountable for sexually assaulting someone and that somebody else will (literally) pay for my iniquities.

  17. I’d read about this incident on another site, and what bothers me is that she wants the airline to act as a legal prosecutor.  We have a legal system that presumes innocence until guilt is proven, but she wanted Spirit to act definitively solely on her word–and her word after the fact, at that. (You say “LaRue waited until the flight ended to report the alleged assault.” but her own blog account reports that she not only waited until after the flight but went HOME first.) Yes, I’m fully aware that following a sexual assault one probably isn’t prepared to act rationally, but had she reported it even when she got off the flight at the airport she could have enlisted police there to help–and the police would have been the ones to take the actions regarding the man’s subsequent flights that she wanted Spirit to take. Under the circumstances, I think a refund and an apology is what’s called for. Then have the police prosecute the passenger for sexual assault, and sue him for the lost work, etc.

    1. I’m confused about Spirit needing to refund her ticket.  It wasn’t their fault and she didn’t give them a chance to adequately resolve the matter.

      Frankly, I think if Spirit were to give her a refund it would set a bad precedent–she would most certainly blog about the refund and then perhaps Spirit would be deluged with “after the incident” reports from pax looking for a free ticket.

  18. I think the important fact of the matter is that Spirit’s agent refused to act when the victim reported the situation. It shouldn’t make a difference whether the incident is reported in the air or on the ground. They could have easily pulled the manifest to determine whom the perpetrator was and contacted the authorities. By refusing to act, the airline made itself liable. 

    1. And he says he never did it and she’s deranged.  Then what genius?  Then nothing, because she is dismissed with zero proof.

  19. Something similar happened to me on a public bus some years ago. An obese man sat next to me, although the bus was practically empty. Gradually, I began to feel his body pressing against mine, which I initially attributed to his size. He never groped me, but I realized that he now had his whole upper body leaning on me and pressing me hard against the window. It also struck me that with all the empty double seats to choose from, he had sat next to me.

    I was too self-conscious and embarrassed to call attention to what was happening. I merely arose and changed my seat. To this day, I reproach myself for not having loudly called him a pervert as I got up. Blame someone? Just me. Not for what he did, but for what I didn’t do.

  20. From reading this, and rereading this, I’m starting to think this lady is full of crap.
    Was she touched inappropriately during the flight?  My gut says yes simply because making something like this up seems a little much.  BUT, anyone with half a brain would not continue sitting next to someone who’s feeling them up WITHOUT saying something immediately.  That’s the first part of the story that make me wonder if this entire thing is made up…

    Should she have reported it immediately?  Absolutely.  At the very least she should have asked to switch seats mid-flight.  Makes no sense to continue sitting next to the alleged perv without at least trying to switch seats.

    Was the airlines response a little lacking?  Yes.  They could have, and should have done more.  At the very least, if someone reports an assault while on your aircraft, you at least call the police or FBI to come in and take an incident report.

    Were her demands of Spirit absurd?  Yes.  Asking them to cover for Lost Work and her therapy bills when they were not the ones who actually committed the crime is absurd.  If she thought that they might be complicit in it, then maybe she might have a case, but given that she took her case to the public before even giving the company a chance to make things right makes me think she’s full of crap and just looking for a story for her Blog…

  21. I might sue Chris for lost work.  I don’t think I can work for the next hour I am so distressed by reliving this horrific assault.  There should have been a disclaimer at the beginning of the article to protect me.  Pure negligence. 

    1. I have often wondered why Chris gives the full name of those he may help.  If I had a travel complaint I wouldn’t feel comfortable having my first and last name on a blog post.  First name and last initial yes–but not my full name.

      1. I have a policy of using full names on this site, which I almost always adhere to (I can point to a few examples when I didn’t, and regretted it). 

        Dana never indicated to me that she didn’t want me to write about her case or had a problem using her full name. She hasn’t gone on the offensive on her Twitter account or her blog, so I’m really doubtful this is the real Dana.

        1. I highly doubt this is her.  Anybody can put any name they want on these comments. 

          As for using her name, she gave up the right to anonymity when she posted all about her experience on her own blog.  It would certainly be silly to write an article about her and NOT use her name, yet include a link to her own story in which she openly identifies herself!

  22. I also wonder why she has not pressed charges against the actual attacker.  Going after a company for the actions of a 3rd party (not affiliated with the company) does not make sense unless someone is just trying to make money off of a situation.  I feel for her and am sorry that this crime was committed, but just because you are assaulted in a grocery store does not give you leave to sue or seek compensation from the grocery store, you press charges/sue the assaulter.  I also think that Spirit’s initial response was not adequate, but I am not sure monetary compensation is warranted. 

    I also do not understand why she wants to be booked on a new airline, except that she thinks this will happen again and only on Spirit, not any other airline.  I understand she feels violated and unsafe, but how is she any safer on any other airline.  As far as she or the airline knows, this passenger could fly on multiple airlines. 

    I too would like to know how, in any current system, Spirit should be held liable for the actions of a passenger (that would not have been caught by security/tsa)?

    1. I too am sorry this happened to her, but not bringing it to the airline’s attention either during the flight, or when they landed leads me to side with the airline.  Her complaint should be handled by filing criminal charges.  Although, after the fact, it would likely be “she said” vs “he said” unless he has a history of similar events.

      I don’t understand why she wants to fly a different airline.  Do perverts only fly Spirit?

  23. I agree that Spirit should have been more compasionate.  They should have also directed her to the appropriate law enforcement agency and then providing the passenger name to them.   But, that doesn’t mean that the airline owes her beyond putting her on a different airline on the return flight as a gesture towards her upset state.

  24. Not sure I agree with the requests for refunds, however, it would be appropriate for a Spirit rep to actually call her and apologize.
    Now, we come to when she reported it. In spite of all education to the contrary, those who experience sexual assault still frequently experience a high degree of shame. I am an advanced orange belt in Japanese jujitsu, so I have some of that trained out of me, plus I know I can defend myself. (Aside: I recommend self-defense training for every woman. It really does help.) I’d have probably trapped the perv’s hand, and said, in a low voice, “Buddy, that hand better not move a millimeter over to my side unless you want to walk off this plane and in to a jail cell. Got it?” But again, that’s my training.
    I realize many people do not have this, and I can only imagine how she must have felt: trapped in her seat by this creep, not wanting to create a disturbance, wondering if the FA would believe her, because you know he was going to deny the heck out of it, not wanting the other pax to look at her and wonder if she did anything to “bring it on herself.” As absurd as that sounds, it’s what goes through one’s mind. Also, she may have thought, “What if this guy follows me through the airport if I report him?” so she wanted to be safe in her home before she reported it. I get it.
    Because I’m mean, it would have tickled me to see the guy be humiliated in front of the entire plane and be called out and arrested when he got off the plane.
    Spirit knows who flew in that seat. They can spread the word among their staff that, if they get Chester the Molester on board again, to watch him like a hawk, and if he’s next to a female, to re-seat him, if possible.

  25. Looks like I’m with the majority here. By her own account, Spirit didn’t play a role in what happend to her and she didn’t inform them when they could have reasonably stopped it from occurring.

    I feel for her for what occurred but Spirit owes her nothing beyond making sure he wasn’t on her return flight and assisting law enforcement (if she even filed charges which isn’t clear).

  26. Any woman that has to go into therapy because a strange man touched her breast already has problems and should get her head on straight. Ladies, slip your shoe off and hit him repeatedly in the face with it, for some on the spot justice. Loss work and therapy no way. They don’t owe anything after the fact. 

    1. Sally, I loved your comment.  I am personally in favor of a scream that would bring on the pilot.  But, the shoe in the face is excellent.  (see my previous scream post above.)

    2. Thanks for stating it so bluntly.  This sort of experience and much worse resonate with many women.   

      I agree with you totally that pervs should be treated unmercifully at the time of the incident.  However, the way that most of us women have been socialized – to deny, not to make waves, to abhor violence, not to call attention to ourselves, etc., etc. etc. – causes us to be silent.  

      Now that the word is out, we have to forget the denial, confront the reality of what is happening to us and call them out.  Yelling, screaming and hitting are defence tactics that we must practise so that when the time comes, we can react appropriately.

       

  27. This is a tricky case – can’t bring myself to criticize the woman who was victimized, but on the other hand the airline wasn’t notified during the flight when they could follow procedure and hold the pervert accountable.  To blame the airline for the actions of a passenger is a slippery slope – it’s vicarious liability and the supreme court and congress recently struck down the vicarious liability statutes with the Graves Amendement.  As a thought experiment, imagine that you’re hosting a dinner party for 30 guests.  At the end of the party, after nearly all the guests have left one of your party guests informs you that the man seated next to her was groping her under the table.  She didn’t say anything at the time because she was embarrased and concerned for her saftey, and now the accused has left the party.  She then asks that you compensate her for her emotional distress, lost ability to work, etc.  Woulfd it seem just to try to collect from you after the fact?  As invoited guests, do we ceede all personal responsibility for our own welfare to our hosts? 

  28. Had anyone put their hand on me as happened to this person I not only would have screamed loud enough for the pilot to hear but I would have called him “very loudly” a few choice words.  Such has never happened to me but I would never ever NOT REPORT THE JERK.  How old is she?  Once I screamed at a purse snatch at a mall and 25 men came to my rescue!  It made the papers (without my name, of course) and I managed to put this guy behind bars for one year — he got a second year for “bad behavior.”  Also I screamed on a tropical island when my purse was grabbed and the next day I met a man at the airport who heard this “AWFUL SCREAM.”  I 
    said that I was that person.  EVERY woman should learn how to scream at
    the top of their lungs.  AND AIRLINES have the names of passengers and their seating.  

  29. I’m sorry, but if that were me I would have been screaming bloody murder during flight.  What on earth would have possessed her to sit there quietly during an entire flight next to a man who has just sexually assaulted her.  She should have rang for the FA and told them what happened.  Did she press charges against the man who assaulted her? I’m a rape survivor and believe me when I say that had that been me this happened to, I would not have sat next to this man for the remainder of the flight.

    1. Julie…me too.  As a rape survivor myself, I simply have no sympathy for women who enable their abusers.  And remaining seated silently next to him for the rest of the flight was not only enabling him, it was PROTECTING him.  Now, that sick f**k is out there, probably sexually assaulting OTHER women!

      Not only did she do herself a disservice, she did a disservice to other women by not immediately reporting this crime.  I give no credence to the whole concept that’s been put forward of the trembling, terror-struck voiceless victim.  Stand up and fight, lady!  SAY something!  Not only do you owe it to yourself, but you owe it to all the future victims of this criminal.

  30. I know people who have been sexually assaulted, have seen the anger they feel, and believe it when they told me about the fear. But she let the dude walk, scot free, by not saying anything at the time and now wants to vent her anger against the airline that had nothing to do with the incident itself. Spirit certainly did not handle it well and the refund for the flight was merely a gesture, but probably enough compensation. It’s compassion at the time was sorely lacking.

  31. You know, this is exactly what’s wrong with this country: when someone is victimized, they often go after whoever has the deepest pockets rather than whoever is actually responsible. I don’t see how Spirit Airlines did anything wrong here, at least based on what was reported. I think they have every obligation to cooperate with a criminal investigation, but I see no indication that they’re shirking that obligation. (It’s not clear if the victim has even contacted authorities).

    While I’m not blaming her for failing to report the assault while she was on the plane, I don’t see how Spirit is responsible given that she didn’t. If she had reported it and been brushed off, I’d agree with her. But what does she expect them to do after the fact, except cooperate with any criminal investigations?

    And I totally reject the idea that Spirit’s supposedly risque advertising is relevant here. Last time I checked, they weren’t running a promotion encouraging passengers to commit sexual assault onboard. The blame should be placed where it belongs: on the criminal who assaulted the victim.

    1. You wrote:  “While I’m not blaming her for failing to report the assault while she was on the plane…”

      Well, I AM blaming her.  Not only did she guarantee that he would get away with assaulting her…she allowed him to go forth and assault other women in the future.  She is a disgrace to womanhood.  She should issue public apologies to all women who sit next to this creep in the future.

  32. As a victim of sexual assault my heart goes out to Dana and I hope that she is able to heal.  I am sorry this happened to her but I am confused at why she placing so much blame on Spirit when Jim is the person who violated her.  I honestly do not see where Spirit “blamed” her.  They are not the police and are should never “police” their passengers by giving out passenger information to other passengers. 
    I hate to say this, but it looks as if she is greedy and looking for a payday. 
    As terrifying as it is, it is so important to report sexual assault as soon as possible to the police. 

  33. Why are the police not involved?  How is it Spirit’s problem for not responding to an event after the fact?  She needs to contact the police, the police can then get the other passenger’s info from Spirit.  This is completely wrong to hold Spirit at all responsible here.

    1. Agreed.  Why has she not reported this to the police?  This is the sort of thing that they are trained to handle, and I’ll bet they see these cases far more often than any airline does.

      Filing a police report would also lend some credibility because it shows you’re serious.

  34. “Some might say Spirit’s risque ad campaigns give passengers like “Jim” a license to grab any female passenger he wants, without consequence.”

    Chris this is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard. This is like saying, she was wearing revealing clothing so she was ASKING to be assaulted. Even proposing such a ridiculous ‘excuse’ for this behavior is insulting.

  35. I got some problems with this one.
    First of all, I feel for the woman IF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. I don’t know about you, but if some old nasty guy was touching me below the belt, I’d be screaming every four letter word in the book, if not decking him outright. But then, I’m a guy, so whatever.

    And…how do we know that this isn’t just a publicity stunt for her blog? Her demand of “loss of work” is ridiculous and just makes me think this is nothing more than “pay attention to me so I can get advertisers!” If you’re a brokeass bride, how do you come up with $1800 for “missed work”?????

    I’ll assume for the next paragraph that this is true. Okay, so this happens and she calls Spirit. She probably called some help desk in India where they’re trained to speak with American accents, read from a script, and not actually understand what they’re saying. That said, when she did speak to a manager and personnel on the ground, there should’ve been some action taken. Did she demand they alert the airport police? I’m fuzzy on that detail.

    That said, what the heck does SPIRIT owe her beyond the name of the clown sitting next to her? Did Spirit sexually assault her? No. Does Spirit have to verify if each of it’s PAX are on some sex offender list? Not last time I checked.

    I think she needs go to after Jim. But alas, Jim is not as deep pocketed as Spirit nor does he make a good headline…

    1.  “what the heck does SPIRIT owe her beyond the name of the clown sitting next to her?”
      ———————————-
      Raven—they don’t even owe her that. They legally cannot release the name of a passenger without a subpena.

  36. I really can’t believe this woman! She is out for a quick buck, and frankly she makes me ill. At the risk of being accused of being an insensitive clod, I will make the following points:
     1. She should have said something immediately! I would have slapped the guy in the face and then I would have pressed the call button or gone right over to to a crew member to report it. Waiting until the flight is over is going to make things a lot more difficult.2. Spirit said they couldn’t do anything once the flight was over. Perhaps they should have given her the man’s name so she could file a complaint. Still, is their lack of response enough reason to insist on flying back on a different airline?3. She must make a lot of money to ask for $1,800 for “lost work.” For what, a few hours of delay for taking a different flight? Even if she lost a whole day, that means she would have to make close to half a million dollars a year in order to make $1,800 a day.3. It is not clear if this woman is already in therapy, but since she is asking for $220 for a therapy bill, it sounds like the amount is just for one or two visits. Either way, I don’t see why Spirit should pay. If she is seeing a therapist anyway, why would Spirit pay for a session? And if she isn’t, it is still not Spirit’s responsibility to pay for a session. It is not their fault that this guy groped her.While I too would be upset if this happened to me and I am not minimizing sexual assault, her demands are absurd and totally out of proportion to what happened. She is blaming the airline, even though most of what happened is not their doing. I’m surprised they even refunded her return flight, which is more than enough compensation. And I sincerely doubt that Spirit’s ads–as dumb, juvenile and insulting as they are–caused this incident.This woman really wants justice, she should work with law enforcement go get Spirit to provide the man’s name, so she can go after him. Going after the airline does not make sense. But I get the feeling from the story that what she wants is not justice, it’s money. 

  37. Looking for compensation from Spirit for their lack of compassion? Spirit has a long history of not having compassion, why start now? Several years ago, their CEO famously forwarded an email where he challenged a passenger to “tell the world how bad we are” and prediciting that “he’ll come back when he wants to save a penny.” Spirit has steadily grown since then.

    Have you followed up on the police report yet? They should have had time to take the legal steps to obtain the manifest and investigate.

  38. When you are in the air the flight crew and the Captain are the law, while she may have been paralyzed with fear, and I can understand that, she should have gotten up and gone to a flight attendant, they in turn would have,  reported this to the Captain, who would have seen if law enforcement officers were aboard and had a law enforcement officer sit next to the man for the rest of the flight if there was one. He would have been arrested and removed from the flight as soon as it landed, or if no law enforcement, they would have removed the woman to another seat and law enforcement would have boarded before this man had a chance to leave the plane. This is a crime and this man would have had his day in court with a judge deciding who did what.

    If she reported this as she was leaving the plane to ground staff, and he was still on the flight I think that they had the same obligation to call authorities, However, the woman who was grouped would have to press charges, and she would have to testify against this man in court.

    Reporting this after leaving the airport makes this difficult if not impossible, I think she should file a police report at the least.

    Women should know that they have every right to be safe aboard a plane and every right to report a being molested, the flight crew is there for safety and are trained to deal with all sorts of problems…DON”T SIT THERE! Get up and find a crew member and report this kind of behavior

  39. I once fell asleep on the DC metro.  I awoke to find some man had his hand on my thigh.  I did feel too paralyzed to scream.  However, I did get up and move.  I think if it would have happened to me on an airplane, I would have gone to the back of the airplane and just stood there until some flight attendant told me to go back to my seat.  At that point, I think I would have quietly explained the situation and asked for a different seat.  If there were no other seats available, and the flight attendant had told me to go back to my original seat and just deal with it, then the airline would bear some responsibility.

    I can’t see how spirit bears any responsibility here.  On the other hand, “Jim” might have witnessed a TSA op-out pat down and think that sort of behavior was ok.  On this point I’m being sarcastic.

    1. Adele, this is amazing, because when I read this article, it instantly reminded me of a girlfriend years ago who was on the DC metro and felt this perv touching her.  At first she thought he was just brushing up against her innocently and so she moved a little to give him space; it was only when he did it again that she realized it was deliberate.
      And what did she do?  Nothing.  She was, in a word, paralyzed.  She was (she told me later) too embarassed to speak up, as if it was somehow her fault!  I would probably have reacted in exactly the same way.
      Wouldn’t it be ironic if you both were dealing with the same DC metro perv?  There he is, out there on the metro pawing women, and unfortunately getting away with it because our natural female instinct is, in many cases, to be embarassed and say nothing.
      I guess this buttresses the point of many here, who are saying SCREAM and make a scene, even if it goes against your inner instinct–because that’s the only way these creeps will ever stop! 

      1. Actually, Clare, it’s not embarrassment so much as it’s being raised to be “polite”.  Pervs like this count on a person’s discomfort at creating a scene in a public place.  It’s the same with people who treat others poorly in public (such as an employee at a store, whatever).  They KNOW you won’t say anything because you were raised to not cause a ruckus in public.  (remember when we were all kids and our parents told us to behave ourselves in church, a restaurant, etc?)

        1. And allowing that fear of embarrassment or desire to be “polite” to cause you let a perv get away with assault is a crime in itself.  By letting the assaulter go, you are doing a disservice to every other woman out there that this criminal will encounter.

          There is simply no excuse to put “being polite” above stopping a sexual criminal.  If someone saw a child being pulled into an alleyway with a knife to her throat, would someone keep quiet about it so as not to cause a ruckus?

          That’s what I’m seeing sprinkled throughout this thread – people essentially forgiving the OP for keeping her assault to herself and allowing him to escape.  There is no excuse.  She needed to overcome her fear and STAND UP SCREAM.  When a crime is being committed, allowing the criminal to commit his crime and escape makes you a party to it.

  40. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but I clicked the link and read the entire “open letter” posted on her blog. 

    As popular as it is to bash Spirit Airlines, I feel her anger is misdirected. The Spirit Airlines representatives should have shown some more sensitivities, and an apology to such may be in order. A refund is generous, but anything beyond that is unreasonable. 

    I hate to say it, but Spirit Airlines played by the book on this one. If she had spoken up at the time of the incident, action could have been taken. Even if she had spoke up before the plane had deplaned, a Police Officer could have been summoned and a report been filed on the spot. In this case, her first call was to Spirit Airlines AFTER she left the airport, and without filing a police report first. 

    What she is asking for is for Spirit Airlines to be judge, jury and executioner. There is a process for these cases, and the process is in place to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. File the police report, allow authorities to do their job, and Spirit then would respond to any law enforcement inquiries. 

    Spirit should NOT have released any passenger information, and not taken any action in this case. By the time she decided to file a report, what could they do? Its not their job to question “Jim”, that’s law enforcement’s job. 

  41. She would have to have IMMEDIATELY made a complaint, so they know that it is legitimate, and could handle it correctly at that point.  Now its after the fact, there is no way for them to even guess if it is a legitimate complaint, or just a grab for money or attention.  This was a criminal offense, and she is seeking civil liability from the airline — apples and oranges.

  42. I propose that all middle seats be blocked out on all flights. This way, people won’t be sitting next to each other so sexual assault cannot happen.

    Seriously now, what the heck does she want to get out of Spirit? The airline isn’t the correct party to be going after. She should hire someone to track ‘Jim’ down.

  43. First and foremost she should have immediately informed the crew as to what was happening.  That’s it pure and simple!!!  Why would she sit there and not say a word?  I just don’t get it!  I’m sure this guess has and will do it again and he escaped getting caught once again!  I’m sorry I can’t buy into her compensation. 

  44. I started to vote ‘yes’ until I looked at the ad campaigns Spirit runs. If the FA union needed to get involved in pulling misogynistic ads, then it seems as if there is a culture at Spirit that needs to change. Affecting the bottom line is one effective way of causing company changes. One person getting a better compensation won’t hurt Spirit any, but the PR might.

    1. Spirit doesn’t care about bad PR. About a complaint several years ago their CEO once said “Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”

      The still fly full.

  45. So if JIM grabs a 14 yr old girls tits then she should wait too?  How about if JIM grabs a 10 yr old boys crotch?  If she was that upset about it she should have screamed bloody murderer and had the guy ARRESTED when he got off the plane.  But she does want a free flight and $$$ for a therapist.  What she needs to realize is that her head is on backwards.  CALL THE COPS AND FILE A COMPLAINT AGAINST JIM. He did the touching NOT SPIRIT

  46. Am I missing something…as I qeite this I have not read through the 113 or so postings….but one thing is readily apparent…

    Why didnt she report this to police?  The airline has a flight manifest so the name of the person would be known.

    There were witnesses on the plane probably…also on the planes manifest.

    At the minimum the airline should have a policy in place in handling such a case.  

    It doesnt matter this wasnt reported till the flight landed and deplaned. 

    The airline is responsible for the safety of the passangers.   The airline is in just as much responsibility as if there was a plane crash.

    At minuimum Spirit could have reported this to the airport authorities who then could have taken action.

    I understand the fear of reporting such a crime while in a plane because he is there in the plane with you and you cant get away.

  47. Chris, did you really suggest an ad campaign, no matter how tasteless, is partially responsible for someone sexually assaulting another passenger?

  48. How exactly was the airline at fault for a passenger’s behavior when they knew nothing about the incident until the plane landed??  Sprint has done more than enough.  Her case is against the other passenger, and since she did nothing, and he’s long gone, the case is moot.

  49. I’m with Spirit on this one.  They didn’t do anything wrong.   Can’t believe I just typed that.    They don’t owe her an apology, and they definitely do not owe her any money.   I would need therapy too if I let someone grope me TWICE and didn’t say anything.  Sorry but she made the mistake of being “frozen” and any costs she incurs like missed work or therapy bills are her own responsibility.  

    Now had she been groped and informed the airline, then they should be responsible for moving her to a safer location for the duration of the flight.  Also to notify the authorities before landing.  She failed to report the crime.   

  50. Really, I don’t think this is Spirit’s problem anyway.  If I woke up and someone other than my husband was fondling my leg, he would be bent over and curled up faster than you can say hey!  This lady may have been discombobulated when she woke up but she should have screamed bloody murder!  She is after Spirit to make up for something that wasn’t their fault.  I don’t stand up for the airlines too often, but in this case, she handled this whole thing incorrectly. 

  51. Here I would say she is not entitled to anything more.

    She should have complained immediately when the alleged assault took place. After that moment the airline would then be obligated to take action. Only if the airline failed to take appropriate action would the airline be aiding and abetting the assailanty.

    Appropriate action can include giving up a crew rest seat to reseat someone, or seating someone in a crew jumpseat. Appropriate action can include restraining an uncooperative person or a person observed to engage in bad behavior.

    By the way, “There is nothing we can do” is usually an outright lie.

  52. She chose to fly on Spirit, like the quote from AIRPLANE, “She bought the ticket, she knew what she was getting into” – Ghetto airlines breed ghetto passengers, maybe she should have shelled out another $1.75 and flown on a reputable carrier.

  53. It’s a rare day when I say a sexual assault victim has received enough compensation. And I don’t think LaRue did receive enough compensation – just enough from the airline. I will never tell a victim in this situation what she “should have” done. The kind of attack LaRue experienced is traumatic and reporting it is emotionally fraught. It is not for me or anyone to judge how she dealt with this incident.

    That said though, it sounds as though the airline staff didn’t know this was going on. There’s not much the airline can do to prevent perverts from buying tickets. If the staff had known and not done anything, that would be different.

    What the airline should do, if it hasn’t, is release the man’s name so LaRue can pursue charges and/or tort claims against him. He absolutely SHOULD pay her for lost work and therapy.

    1. This is quite an old thread with a lot of comments. What you may have missed is that an airline cannot legally release the names of any passenger, even to law enforcement, without a court order. That being said, I’m sure if the OP’s attorney wished to pursue it, and the court order was obtained, Spirit would be obligated to comply.

  54. I cannot conceive of someone “saying or doing NOTHING” if they were touched by a stranger on a plane.  I have a “world class” scream which I have used on two occasions.  One brought 25 men to my rescue when a man took my purse (it made the papers) and another in Barbados brought the police.  But I would have whacked him with a shoe and yelled at the top of my lungs.  Believe me, I doubt he would ever touch anyone again.

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