As if we needed another reason not to fly United after the horrific video showing a man being dragged off a plane in Chicago, now a story has emerged about an incident that took place in late March, when New Jersey mom Jennifer Rafieyan, 47, and her 12-year-old daughter were flying from Newark to Phoenix.
Rafieyan was seated in a middle seat next to her daughter in the window seat, when flight attendants helped a clearly intoxicated man into the aisle seat beside her, she told The Huffington Post. Flight attendants obviously knew the man was drunk, but did little to prevent a potential situation short of warning Rafieyan.
"[One attendant] made some comment to me like, 'This is going to be an interesting flight,' and looked at him," Rafieyan told the Huffington Post. "And then the other flight attendant came up and said, 'Let me know if you need anything. I mean it.'—and she looked at him."
During the flight, the passenger repeatedly groped and sexually harassed her, touching her legs and knees, kissing her hands and placing his head on her shoulders. He went so far as to grab a notebook out of her hands and write "PASIONAT NITE XX" on her to-do list.
Stuck between the man and her daugher, Rafieyan says she froze and felt too “meek” to confront the man herself.
"When a man is inappropriate with me, I usually just run from it and maybe tell somebody,” she said. “But I felt trapped. I couldn't leave the seat because I didn't trust him near my daughter."
It wasn’t until her daughter got up to use the restroom that Rafeiyan was able to alert flight attendants. Unfortunately, things only got worse, with the flight attendants continuing to pour the man more drinks, despite federal law that prohibits boarding a passenger who "appears to be intoxicated," as well as serving anyone who becomes intoxicated while on board.
After the flight, Rafeyian reported the incident to United. Their response? Four $100 travel vouchers, although Rafeyian hadn’t asked for any financial compensation. Instead, she wanted an explanation—why had United allowed this man, who was clearly drunk, to board in the first place?
Desperate for an answer, Rafeyian appealed to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation. Finally, United offered up a mea culpa.
"We sincerely apologize to Ms. Rafieyan and her family for their experience. We are reviewing the way that this situation was handled on board, and how our customer care team responded," a United spokeswoman told The Huffington Post. "We will follow up with Ms. Rafieyan to apologize again, and discuss how we could have handled this situation better."