Sexual Harassment On A Plane. What Would You Do?

a cartoon character leaning on a question mark

There’s a story in the news today that’s causing a stir. Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Mark, founder of Facebook reported that she was sexually harassed by her seatmate on a recent Alaska Airlines flight.

Thanks to Paul S for sending this my way.  To be clear, I have no proof that her claims are true or false.  Honestly, though, I can’t think why any woman would make up a story like this.  This Tweet covers a good deal of what she said she experienced:

What Would You Do?

I’m not minimizing the behavior of her seat mate in any way, shape or form.  It sounds like he was a real pig.  The question is what should the airline have done?  That might seem like an easy question, but I’m really interested in hearing your opinion.  I’ll offer a few of mine:

Stop Serving Him Drinks

Here’s the softball.  If a passenger complained about his behavior, I would absolutely stop serving him drinks.  You could argue he might get belligerent.  I think I might fade that risk.

Move The Male Passenger

That’s a tough one.  If the flight attendants witnessed it, I could see moving him.  If they didn’t witness it, it’s a pretty tough call.  Downgrading a passenger from first class to coach is a dicey subject, especially in midair.  Add in alcohol and you could be asking for trouble.

They Refuse To Move

Let’s say you said “yes” to the above suggestion of moving the male passenger.  Once you go down that road and they say no, do you ignore it?  Or, do  you divert if they refuse to follow your actions?  See how sticky this gets?

Move The Female Passnger

Um, no.  I appreciate that the crew made the offer.  They kind of had to.  But, it’s up to her if she wants to move.  In her shoes, I’m not sure what I would do.  But, I certainly wouldn’t want the crew to force her to move unless I thought there was a risk of something physical happening.

Call The Cops

Would you have the cops meet this passenger and have them question him after taking a statement from the female passenger?  You’re dealing with a foreign government, so that could escalate the situation in a way that may not end favorably.  Should that matter?

Report The Passenger To Management

Well, yes.  This sounds like it should have happened well before the current situation.

Have The Pilot Enjoy A Friendly Chat

Agree or disagree with me, this is absolutely my choice.  And, I’m hoping the pilot is big and imposing.  And, makes him feel as uncomfortable as the lady sitting beside him.

The Final Two Pennies

It’s easy to call out the described behavior as abhorrent.  But, how do you actually deal with it in the air?

I really hope folks will weigh in here.

The post Sexual Harassment On A Plane. What Would You Do? was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. I agree with the options above. If this had happened to me I would have asked a man in first class in a aisle seat (then window if turned down) if he would switch seats with me, explaining the situation. The worst they can do is say no. I’ve had to do this in other travel stations (I solo female travel a lot) and in every case 99% of the time the man is happy to help and very understanding.

  2. Recalling another drunk on a plane, isn’t that a time for duct tape. Just guesting, the guy was probably overpour at the airport bar and that might be a legal matter.

  3. WTF is wrong with people? I guess alcohol brings out a person’s true self. Absolutely agree to stop serving him alcohol, but the damage is already done by now. Never thought about having the pilot talk to him, but that might serve as a sobering moment for the drunk passenger.

  4. First, I would have immediately put on head phones and pulled out my Kindle to let him know i wasn’t going to talk or listen to his remarks. I’m extremely vocal (probably from dealing with this a couple of times in the classroom as a teacher) and I know I would have called him out on it. Not rude, but making sure others were aware of the situation. Chances are someone might have offered to change seats and/or had a talk with the guy and I wouldn’t have had to ask if someone would switch seats, although I agree with Erica Toelle. I do think the flight attendant should be reported for continuing serving alcohol to him and the airlines need to be aware this was not a first time thing.

    I don’t think trying to get police involved would work. As you said, it was a foreign country and knowing the history of the culture, women come in 2nd. I know this isn’t true of all, but I’ve worked with Domestic Violence, heard many talks on the cultural beliefs, and feel nothing would have been accomplished.

  5. If I was her, I would have asked the flight attendants to look at my last name and ask if they think I’m going to escalate. Hint: No its not.

    One of the things that she can do that mere mortals cannot is use her influence to find out his name and then file a civil suit against him. That influence could also be used against Alaska as the company and the flight attendants for promoting and encouraging sexual harassment. I’m sure she can make it more profitable for Alaska to boot this passenger for life than deal with the negative publicity. Those flight attendants…..there is a CRJ somewhere they can work if they don’t want to resign.

      1. She did use her “status” when she tweeted about it. She shouldn’t be given any preferential treatment just because of who she is. Same should be done for anyone, male or female who is put in this position.

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