Alaska First Class Passenger Sexually Harassed By Seatmate, Crew Does Nothing

Filed Under: Alaska, Media

This story just sounds awful. Randi Zuckerberg (who is an entrepreneur and is also the sister of Mark Zuckerberg) shared on Twitter a letter she addressed to Alaska Airlines management regarding a flight yesterday from Los Angeles to Mazatlan.

Here’s what she Tweeted:

Feeling disgusted & degraded after an @AlaskaAir flight where the passenger next to me made repeated lewd sexual remarks. The flight attendants told me he was a frequent flier, brushed off his behavior & kept giving him drinks. I guess his $ means more than our safety?

And here’s the full letter she sent, which she attached to the Tweet:

To summarize, the guy next to her was sexually harassing her (asking if she fantasized about female colleagues, commenting on the women boarding the plane, etc.). When she brought it to the attention of the crew, they said that the guy was a regular on the route and a frequent flyer on the airline, and said she shouldn’t take offense to it. They jokingly asked if he was behaving today, and kept serving him more and more alcoholic drinks, and offered to reseat her in a middle seat in the back of the plane.

Less than two hours later she Tweeted that two executives from Alaska reached out to her and said they were performing an investigation:

I’m curious what comes of this, and if they share the results with the public. What an unfortunate situation…

  1. With all of the horrific behaviours that are being published daily, my hope is that it will make such people examine themselves, realize that they are doing horrific things, and CHANGE. This would make a better world of all of us.

    My fear is that we will eventually start to feel numb and powerless, and that the victims of abuse will be told to grow a thicker skin and stop being so PC. If this happens, then the world will get even worse.

    Kind of like the mass shooting epidemic. When Columbine happened, the world was shocked to the core. When the Vegas shootings happened, we all sighed and said, “again?”

    Just a 40-something white Canadian male perspective.

  2. Hmmm… This was clearly was uncomfortable for the complainant and I very much empathize with her. But isn’t it a bit over the top to assert that this affected her safety and security…?

  3. I think the AS execs need to also suspend the FA’s for enabling such behavior on the aircraft. They are just as much at fault as the sexual harasser.

    @smallmj: I couldn’t agree more. Money blinds people and some apparently feel they can buy omnipotence. It corrupts absolutely.

  4. If true, the number of appallingly bad moves by Alaska is incredible. The fact that cabin crew A. Knew this was a problem pax, B. Did nothing after repeated complaints, C. Acknowledged that he was a problem pax, and D. Tried to move the complaining pax to the back of the plane is just horrific and we need to keep the spotlight on AS until this is resolved.

    I know AS execs have reached out to Randi, but I hope she keeps going public with everything. Presuming this investigation reveals Randi is telling the truth, there should be several heads rolling at AS after this. The FA’s comments stating they know the offending pax was a problem indicates this issue was raised to management and the FAs were told to deal with it and let him be. That means AS has something rotting at the core that should be made public.

    I love(d) AS as an airline and their employees, so this is a huge disappointment if it all comes out as having transpired how Randi describes it. I feel awful for Randi and want to see some public shaming of Alaska and some very rapid terminations of employees.

  5. @JS after all of his comments, it wouldn’t be crazy to be afraid that this dude might try to grope her during the flight. That would be affecting her safety and security…

  6. You know what needs to be done nowadays? Record. Record every single bit of this shameful and coward behavior and put it online altogether with this letter.
    He should be public humiliated for doing this. His family / company should know what he does.

  7. @smallmj I don’t think that people will become numb to that type of buffoonery. But, unfortunately, it’s a game of whack-a-mole with the types of people who do this stuff. Most people understand that treating people this way is generally wrong even without the recent wave of sexual assault/harassment exposes. Hopefully airlines will feel empowered to deal with people like this…even those who are whales.

  8. @JS:

    I’d venture Randi thought that if the FAs were okay with continuing to serve the pax drinks while knowing he has a penchant for behaving poorly and lewdly, that he could very quickly become belligerent and take what had been just sexual harassment and turn it into sexual assault. Per Randi’s account, he’d already mentioned touching himself while sober/buzzed. The application of more alcohol surely wasn’t going to mitigate that situation and turn him into a polite gentleman. Plus, “safety and security” is a typical airline jargon anyway. I mean, that’s what all the airlines say FAs are primarily there for…”[our] safety and security”, or some variation of that.

  9. Shocking that the AS FA judged that the female victim should be “punished” and reseated in a middle seat in the back of economy while the male offender gets a pass.

    The jerk with “no filter” should get a BFL from AS. The FAs who serve alcohol while enabling this behavior should either be retrained or fired. And any management executives who are enabling this behavior need to be fired.

  10. She should have moved and requested a refund later. The guy was clearly an idiot drunk fool, but he didn’t threaten her or touch her. Maybe the guy thought he was hitting on her by asking her suggestive questions to signal his interest. “Uncomfortable” is not assault. If this was a safety issue she would not have hesitated to move far away from danger and not be concerned that she would be passing on her first class amenity kit.

  11. It’s official, the Zuckerberg family admits that you can communicate more efficiently on Twitter than Facebook.

  12. The only real option the flight attendant had was to instruct him to “zip it” and stop serving him alcohol. To move him between two other passengers would not have been a solution. Other than that, she could have asked the captain to divert the aircraft and deplane him. I am not sure the flight attendant would have been praised by management for diverting an aircraft due to inappropriate comments from a passenger.

  13. Since we elected a president who admitted to sexual assault on tape, it’s no wonder a Some Dude in the front of the plane thought it was OK to harass the woman next to him while pounding down the booze.

  14. @JS if someone was verbally harassing me, threatening/insinuating they might physically abuse or harass me, that person was physically able to make good on that threat, and the relevant authorities (in this case the flight crew) made it clear that they were going to allow this person to get away with this — then yes, I would certainly feel unsafe. Wouldn’t you?

  15. @David S, no diversion was necessary. This passenger’s behavior started “immediately upon boarding”. And he was a known repeat offender to the FA’s. He should have been made to leave the plane immediately.

    In fact, assuming this report is accurate, he should have already been banned from AS well before this flight, based on his previous incidents. It’s mind boggling that some people at AS apparently think his business is more important than that of all of the other passengers that have been subjected to his harassment. Both those on previous flights, and including those sitting near him on this flight. I’m sure Ms. Zuckerberg was not the only one who heard his lewd comments and were made uncomfortable by them.

    I’m guessing the amount of alcohol served to him, including 3 drinks on his tray at one time, is a violation of FAA rules. Perhaps the FAA should be made aware of this as well.

    Does she not have a cell phone? Video of both the harassment and the FA’s indifference to it would have made a powerful social media statement. You’d think she of all people would have thought of that. 😉

  16. The cabin crew is in trouble, they botched. However, in terms of managing passenger safety in the moment, arguably the safeest, most expedient and best outcome was to move Zuckerberg. SHE is not the arbiter of that decision, the airline’s representatives are. There is more than a whiff of her entitled ass jumping on the news of the day bandwagon.

    As far as I can tell, everything that is happening now in the aforementioned news and in the culture is justified and overdue. HOWEVER – females, you do not get a magic wand to control your environment. It is not guilty until proven innocent. That’s where this is all going, and this story is the snowflake at the tip of the iceberg.

    Bad drunks be bad drunks. They’ll say anything to anybody. We’ve all been there. Let’s not make this more than it is. And as far as the guy above who said ‘why didn’t she take video’ – you’re an idiot. Why don’ t we pour gas on the fire, too? Let’s see how you feel when I stick a camera in your face when we’re both sober. It’s like poking somebody in the chest.

  17. Hi, so the summer of 2009.. it was my first solo international trip. I was coming back from Japan (Okinawa) and this older man was on my flight. While sitting at the gate, he began to touch my face.. tell me I’m beautiful and get really agressive. A then 21 year old, I simply moved away and hoped for a seat far away from him. I thought I would lose him after arriving at Haneda, taking a bus to Narita and then a 6 hour layover at NRT. After my transfer and long layover I think I finally lost my creepy man and I get in line to board for DFW. Low and behold, creepy man is on my flight and bought me perfume.. and tried giving me gifts. I wait to board almost last.. and I go to sit on my seat.. and the man is sitting RIGHT next to me. I turn right around and beg the flight attendant to move me anywhere.. “I will even take a middle seat, please don’t make me sit next to this man.” The purser then took me by the hand to the gate bridge, said I will be right back and she came back with a new seat assisgnment. She moved me to first class and told me, “no one will bother you here.” I cried and told her thank you.

    That was the first time I flew in First Class… ever.. and it was the exact moment, I told myself I will forever be loyal to American Airlines.

  18. Let me quote the non-President Hillary: All victims deserve to be heard*.

    But this seems highly improbably to have happened like that with no intervention from Alaska. How convenient it happened to a sister of a guy who wants to run in 2020, presumably on a platform of victimhood, as this is very popular at the moment.

    This will lend material enough for a speech about how his very own sister was violently raped on an airline right here in America, bohoo.

    *(Unless they’re the victims of her husband)

  19. Now, would the airline executives be doing finding if her name was not Zuckerberg? How many times does this happen and the victim is told to brush it off or actually gets punished (in this case, moved to the back of the plane)?

  20. @steve you said: “you’re and idiot… Let’s see how you feel when I stick a camera in your face when we’re both sober.” Just an absurd comment, as the perpetrator was not sober, he was reportedly very drunk. Had he been sober, I doubt any of this would have happened. And I said nothing about sticking a camera in his face, it would have been prudent to stay as far away from his as possible.

    I pointedly said “assuming this report is accurate” because without video, or at least voice recording, it’s impossible to tell. We only found out about Dr. Dao being bloodied as he was pulled off that UA flight because of the video.

    Without a recording we end up with conspiracy theories like that of William Y that she simply made up a false claim as part of a upcoming Presidential campaign. Which is patently absurd, but without video/voice documentation is impossible to disprove. Although it’s clearly over the top, especially when he says: “his very own sister was violently raped on an airline right here in America, bohoo.” When of course no one has mentioned anything like rape. It was verbal abuse, but she had to wonder how far that would go. Luckily it didn’t go any further than that; at least this time.

  21. Did she make a request to the passenger to stop harassing her? Did she file a police report on landing? Or is this a comfort customer service issue? It seems like the FAs treated it as the latter. Would this get any press if it was not a famous person? I imagine this happens every day. I am not sure what airline policy is around dealing with harassing behavior in flight and if it needs to change.

  22. Clickbait. Need to shore up your end of month numbers with that headline? VFTW does a nice post on the subject, with no hype.

  23. @Christian – It is news. It is relevant to many readers here and deserves to be posted. The headline is accurate based on the story. I am not sure why you carry such animosity.

  24. Sooo… let me understand… airline will bloody you up to remove you from aircraft if they overbooked, but cheerfully serve you while you harass fellow passengers? And plenty of people will side with the airline for both scenarios???

    It is sad how many comments here are along the lines of: guys/drunks/as..oles will be just that and nobody can do anything about it, suck it up. I thought the mark of civilization is that we put laws in place (and enforce them) to stop behavior that is damaging to fellow citizens. I guess we are not that mature yet, society thinks that crying harassment is just news grab, and not a serious offense. Interestingly enough, if this kind of language was used toward a police officer, the offender would be behind bars in no time. But your average female needs powerful last name in order to make any dent in societal dead sea.

  25. Wow, there are some disappointing posts here.

    First, the fact that it happened to a Zuckerberg should demonstrate how often women likely suffer such harrassment and verbal abuse.

    Second, whether or not her last name is a factor in her getting attention from AS execs we never can be sure, but I’m sure or didn’t hurt. But there are plenty of examples of this sort of behavior that make the news from people without celebrity status. So I’m not sure this matters.

    Third, putting any responsibility for the injured party to do anything (like record video or even move seats) is pretty ridiculous. The victim didn’t do anything wrong or inappropriate, so the victim shouldn’t need to do anything. The perpetrator has to do something or face the consequences. If the FAs acknowledged the harrassment and knew the perpetrator has a history of such harrassment, then the obvious action is to handle/deal with the perpetrator and nit the victim. The FAs made a terrible choice and should be penalized for such a bad choice.

    Fourth, it is true that this is harrassment and not assault. However, the airlines consistently insist and often act on harassing but not assaultive behavior of other kinds (loudness, body odor, talking back, profanity and vulgarity, etc) so dealing with harassing but not assaultive behavior in this instance isn’t much different—especially with the FAs acknowledgement of his past harrassment behavior.

    People want to make excuses for jerk blowhards like this guy because most people don’t want to believe it happens so much or could bother anyone so much. Especially men. As a gay man, I laugh to think of how many men would excuse such pitiful behavior while feeling woefully uncomfortable if were to do the same things to them. One quick description of how my husband and I got it on last evening and many men (most likely the same blowhard types and those who always seem to laughably think they are a gift to women) would scream bloody murder…but women are expected to grin and bear it when men do the same to them? I think not.

    Way too many men now are slowly and painfully coming to terms with the fact that way too many of them have been assholes to women on more occasions than they’d ever want to admit. That’s good. It’s good for everyone. Including themselves and the women of our world. Just as white people are slowly and painfully more aware of the blatant racism and bigotry that they’ve witnessed and ignored, men are finally being shown that it isn’t acceptable to be a jerk and speak about sexual things to women they don’t know. Just as vulgarity and obscenity is recognized as inappropriate social behavior, so is sexual harrassment. Of any kind.

  26. @John – The First Class aspect is irrelevant, which is majorly clickbaity. Also, the crew did not do nothing. They offered the offended passenger an alternative seat. Not an equal seat, as there were no equal seats available, but an alternative nonetheless. The FA’s were in a situation where any choice was wrong. They could reroute and have the passenger arrested. They could do nothing. Or they could do what they did, not causing the flight to be delayed for everyone because of this scumbag, and report the scumbag afterward. Make no mistake, the scumbag should be on a no-fly list for every airline, but Ben’s over the top sensationalist headline is just plain awful and flat out wrong. I’d expected better.

  27. It’s unfortunate this happened, but I bet Alaska executives might not have done anything if the person getting harassed wasn’t Randi Zuckerberg, or if the story went viral if it was just a regular gal.

  28. I don’t think they should suspend the guys travel privileges until after they investigate. People are to quick to just assume all accusations are valid.

    If the allegations are true, its a pretty disgusting account.

  29. @lucky is “unfortunate situation” the best you can do at coming up with an opinion / comment on the matter? I don’t think that euphemism quite captures it.

    @ericnyc — well said.

  30. Another Canadian male here.

    I can’t believe the number of idiots here who are brushing off her complaints, and or suggest that she should just grit her teeth and bear it.

    @JS Damn right that she should be concerned about her security and safety. When a drunk, Chester-the-Molester-in-training is talking sh*t about touching himself and making sexual references about other passengers, it’s obvious there is no way she would even consider getting a little shut eye on that flight, without feeling unsafe

    @Rob I’m thinking if this was you in her place, you would move to the back of the plane and request a refund later? Sure you would, uh huh

    @steve That’s the power of cellphones, Snowflake – their ability to call this behavior out. Never seen the outrageous things caught on cellphone videos before, that rightfully had consequences for the offenders? Let the public decide if she should’ve just chilled

    @Dmonemd Get into a confrontation with the drunk perv sitting next to you? Brilliant advice! She did exactly what she was supposed to do, and from there the crew should have cut him off and warned him to end the creepy remarks NOW and if he continued, out come the cable ties and duct tape.

    @William Y Paranoid much?

    What is wrong with you people?!!

    @Jon Spot on, mate!


  31. @thenewone why not? whats the problem with mentioning it was First Class? Stop being annoying and finding a fault in every little thing.

  32. @steve:
    “females, you do not get a magic wand to control your environment. It is not guilty until proven innocent. That’s where this is all going, and this story is the snowflake at the tip of the iceberg.”

    If you agree that the crew is in the wrong, then you’re accepting the crew’s acknowledgement that the man was a repeat offender. So no, not “guilty until proven innocent”.

    Ignoring their decision to offer reseating her and not him, you seem to have left out an option: not serving the passenger any more alcohol.

  33. I also can’t believe they amount of people (men) brushing it off. Clearly they’ve never been in such an unsettling and frightening situation. Too many women have. AS should have done more.

  34. Women use sex as a weapon all the time.

    Either to claim harassment or use it to get what they want. They decide what suits them. I am sexually harassed whenever women with Bic boobs wear bikini. They don’t need to say anything to harass me.

    Time for conservative dresses and segregation by sex like in Saudi Arabia.

  35. Couldn’t the crew have switched Randi to another first class seat with a male occupant who would then end up next to the guy? I would have been willing to trade seats with her under the circumstances… It would have been better than nothing, and beget than a middle seat in y

  36. Just another example of an entitled flight attendant employed by the little airline
    that thinks they invented First Class

  37. I started out disgusted wth JS and his comment and then it went downhill from there! Regular readers learn to ignore anything Debit posts due to,the fact that his posts generally display his immaturity. But I have to say, Edison knocked it out of the park! Great response!
    My hope is this jack arse is an executive who works for a large corporation that contracts with the airline! He will then have to explain to HIS boss why he is banned from flying ALaska Airlines!
    Fingers crossed!

  38. @Lucky this is an interesting case that will almost certainly shed light on many similar incidents. I’d guess many companies lack clear guidelines for how to handle one customer harassing another.

    Two small issues with your headline:
    1) At this point, it’s an allegation, not a fact. Alaska is right to conduct an investigation. It’s horrible if true, though these allegations aren’t true 100% of the time.
    2) It is not sexual harassment, at least as defined by the EEOC, since the behavior did not involve an employee. This matters a bit since Alaska might have to respond very differently than it would if the passenger was accused of harassing a flight attendant. My guess is this legal gray area will cause some internal tension at Alaska between legal and PR.

    Regardless of the outcome, it’s definitely a bad look for Alaska.

  39. Many people travel alone now so seat switching is easier. Why not suggest to the FA a switch in seats, such as

    2A 2C
    3A 3C
    4A 4C (the fighting people are in 4A and 4C)

    2A and 4A switch seats. 3C and 4C switch seats. That way, it’s not like one of the two are being moved but both are.

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