Does JetBlue owe her anything for amorous passenger incident?

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Christopher Elliott

To say that Cristi Mitchell felt uncomfortable on a recent JetBlue Airways flight from Phoenix to Boston might be something of an understatement.

During the redeye flight, an amorous couple seated across from her partner and her 8-year-old son engaged in several sex acts. No need to go into details, but let’s just say they covered every angle.

“I was shocked and really uncomfortable,” she said. When she mentioned the behavior to a flight attendant, the crewmember tried to stop the copulating passengers.

She recalls,

The woman had her head in the man’s crotch under a blanket. The man said she was claustrophobic. The female flight attendant suggested that they walk around if that was the case, and not trap her under a blanket.

Addressing inappropriate passenger behavior

I can tell you that if one of my kids had to watch that spectacle on a plane, I’d be more than a little unhappy. Unfortunately, passenger behaviors are not addressed in JetBlue’s service plan, although most people assume that certain things are, to quote the great philosopher Deltalina, “not allowed” on a plane.

Do they really have to spell it out for you?

Initially, the crew seemed to take the incident seriously. A flight attendant even asked Mitchell if she’d be willing to share “her side of the story” with a supervisor when they landed.

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Mitchell says the amorous couple was met by officials in Boston, but is unsure what happened to them. And what happens matters to her. She believes JetBlue could have done more to stop the passengers from doing their thing on the redeye, and wants an apology for having her young son exposed to such adult behaviors.

I can understand that. I think any parent can understand that.

Mitchell wrote a brief note to JetBlue, complaining about the incident. (Here’s our ultimate guide to resolving your consumer problem.) Here’s the response:

We regret hearing the discomfort experienced and can only assure you these matters are taken seriously. When you made your report to our Inflight Crewmember action was taken accordingly. In an effort to protect your identity during the deplaning process and to avoid a potential escalation, only the accused party was questioned.

For confidential and proprietary reasons the outcome of this investigation is not shared with anyone. We trust our crewmembers and local authorities handled this with digression [sic] and any consequences of the alleged incident would not be disclosed.

If your assistance is needed for any reason, someone from JetBlue would reach out accordingly. Although this is unlikely, we do have a manifest with your information and call back numbers should this become necessary.

OK, that’s an acknowledgment that something happened on the flight and a kinda-sorta apology. But Mitchell is still unhappy.

A dissatisfied passenger’s response to the incident

She fired back this angry letter:

I am still not at all OK with the response that I have received. The fact that my rights were infringed upon is wrong. In addition, the fact that the flight attendant approached me two different times to make me ready to speak with a female supervisor that never occurred without explanation or warning was unacceptable.

I find that the decision to hear one side and to come to a conclusion is both irresponsible and quite communist. I am disgusted with the fact that I had no rights or support in this when I was the victim.

What do you think the couple would claim? How dare you have no desire to make what was wrong right, or to actually investigate it. I am even further disgusted with how JetBlue has handled this situation. I have been a long time, loyal client.

That has now ended due to your disrespect, and negligence.

Ah, the old, “I’ll never fly your airline again.” That’s no way to end things.

But what can she reasonably expect from JetBlue, apart from an apology and a promise to investigate? I think an assurance that the couple had been arrested and prosecuted would be a good start. JetBlue might also tell Mitchell in no uncertain terms that such behavior isn’t tolerated on its flights — ever. And it could also apologize to her son, who had to watch the whole unseemly public display of affection.

My advocacy team and I are not sure if there’s anything else JetBlue can do. Or is there?

Should I mediate Cristi Mitchell's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Tokyo.

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