- A Spirit Airlines passenger sued the airline, alleging a flight attendant sexually assaulted him.
- According to the complaint, the alleged assault happened after the passenger was given several free bottles of whiskey.
- Spirit Airlines didn't return requests for comment.
A Spirit Airlines passenger said a flight attendant offered him free alcohol, requested that he move to a private area of a plane, and then sexually assaulted him, according to a complaint.
The passenger, named only as M.B., filed a lawsuit last week against the airline, saying the carrier had been negligent. He sought damages of more than $150,000.
"This lawsuit was brought to seek justice for our client who, as our complaint asserts, was sexually assaulted by a flight attendant on a Spirit Airlines flight," Gregory Spizer of VSCP Law in Philadelphia, told Insider via email. "We look forward to pursuing the case in Court."
The lawsuit coincides with a rise in violent incidents aboard airplanes, although much of that unruly behavior has been aimed at flight crews. On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration said it had received 5,033 unruly passenger reports in 2021. The FAA has opened 950 investigations in 2021, more than five times the 183 investigations it opened in 2020.
The lawsuit accused Spirit of negligence, saying the airline "should have known" about the flight attendant's "propensities to sexual violence, physical violence and sexual deviance."
But the complaint, which only used the flight attendant's first name, did not offer further details about the flight attendant's previous behavior. It was unclear if he'd been disciplined previously, or if the allegations about the flight attendant were speculative.
"Upon information and belief, Spirit Airlines failed to conduct a thorough background check or reference check on [the flight attendant,]" the complaint claimed. "Had Spirit Airlines conducted such a check, it would have discovered the concerns raised herein."
Spirit Airlines didn't return requests for comment.
M.B., of Atlanta, was flying on June 30 to Philadelphia to visit family, according to his complaint. He was seated near the back of the plane.
The flight attendant first gave him a free water bottle, according to the complaint. He "soon returned, winked at Plaintiff and pushed mini bottles of Jack Daniels into his chest." The flight attendant then stopped to offer more, and, a few minutes later, he "placed a balled-up napkin" with his phone number on M.B.'s table, the complaint alleges.
As the flight approached Philadelphia, the attendant "called Plaintiff to a private area at the back of the plane behind the bathrooms," the complaint claims.
Flight attendants are "in charge while the plane is in the air," so M.B. complied, the complaint said.
"When Plaintiff went to the back of the plane where [the flight attendant] had called for him, [the attendant] looked around and then, without warning, grabbed, groped and fondled Plaintiff's penis and private area," the complaint said. The flight attendant "then tried to unzip Plaintiff's pants."
In the lawsuit, Spirit was accused of six different counts, including assault, battery, and gross negligence in its hiring and supervision.
The complaint alleges that M.B. first contacted local police, but he was told that he'd have to contact the FBI instead, since the alleged assault happened in the air, as the plane approached Philadelphia. His complaint claims he filed a report with the bureau.
Carrie Adamowski, spokesperson for the FBI's Philadelphia Division, said she couldn't "confirm or deny any particular contact or the potential existence of an investigation."
"As a general matter, though, allegations of criminal conduct are reviewed by the FBI for their merit, with consideration of any applicable federal laws," Adamowski said in an email. "When warranted, the FBI proceeds to take appropriate action."
A summons was issued to Spirit on Wednesday, according to the docket in the US District Court in Eastern Pennsylvania.