According to the FBI, the number of sexual assaults reported during commercial flights have increased "at an alarming rate." There was a 66% increase in sexual assault on airplanes between 2014 and 2017. During that period, the number of opened FBI investigations into sexual assault on airplanes jumped from 38 to 63. And flight attendants have it worse. A survey conducted by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA found that 70% of flight attendants had been sexually harassed while on the job, while only 7% reported it.
Some airlines are taking steps to stop harassment in the sky, telling passengers to say something if they see something. Southwest's safety announcements will go beyond what to do if the cabin pressure suddenly drops. The airline is now asking passengers to report "unwelcome behavior" in their in-flight safety announcements.
The in-flight announcements now end with "We are here for your comfort and safety. Please report any unwelcome behavior to a flight attendant.'" Southwest also has procedures in place to deal with in-flight harassment, which include re-seating passengers away from the person who is behaving unwelcomely. Southwest may also notify the captain and seek assistance from law enforcement after landing.
"This change reflects Southwest's commitment to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment at all times for each of our customers and employees. Southwest's intention is to remind our customers that flight attendants are a friendly, professional resource for reporting any unwelcome behaviors or conduct during a flight. Safety is always our uncompromising priority, and this new pre-flight reminder is one more way that we can support customers with our Southwest hospitality," Southwest said in a statement.
Southwest isn't the only airline that has added this kind of language to their in-flight announcements. Alaska Airlines has been asking passengers to report sexual harassments to flight attendants since 2017. Delta Air Lines also instructs passengers to speak to flight attendants if they have a problem, although their language doesn't specifically mention harassment or assault.
Feeling safe in the sky goes above and beyond just knowing how to put on your inflatable life jacket. There's a one in 11 million chance of being in a plane crash, and we're told what to do each and every time we step on a plane. It makes sense to also be instructed on what do to in case someone bothers you.
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