FBI Advice : What to do if you are sexually assaulted on a commercial flight

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In most cases, the FBI has jurisdiction over in-flight assaults. The jurisdiction starts at the time the airplane door is closed and lasts until the door is opened after landing.

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In California, local agencies also have jurisdiction over in-flight crimes committed while a plane is above California airspace. When law enforcement is called to meet a flight, local police or sheriff deputies are usually the responders. They work in cooperation with FBI agents who generally handle the investigation, and may sometimes meet a flight.

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If you are sexually assaulted on an airplane, FBI Special Agent Carlos Ramirez recommends:

  • Get out of your seat immediately and notify a flight attendant.
  • If the crew does not reseat you or the perpetrator, ask them to do so.
  • Ask flight attendants to have law enforcement meet the plane. The F.B.I urges all flight crews to report any crime on board a plane, but airline policies vary.
  • If possible, try to identify witnesses on the plane.
  • If law enforcement does not meet the plane when it lands, call 911 before you leave the airport.
  • Try to remember the circumstances of the assault to the best of your ability - including when during the course of the flight the assault happened.
  • If someone touches you in an unacceptable manner for any reason, say something such as "You are encroaching on my space and that is not acceptable."
  • If you are subject to verbal or other harassment that makes you uncomfortable, notify flight attendants to prevent the behavior from escalating.
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