DENVER — Two women who say they were sexually assaulted on Frontier flights are taking the airline to court – they filed a class-action lawsuit last week.
Both women say Frontier has refused to help them and accuse the airline of not following through on policies regarding response to assault.
Lena Ramsay was on an October 2018 late-night flight from Denver to Rhode Island. She says in the lawsuit she was sexually assaulted by a male passenger on the flight and immediately reported it to the flight attendant. Ramsay says the flight attendant refused to let her switch seats to move away from the man, the flight attendant did not report the incident to anyone else and did not ask that law enforcement be contacted to meet the plane upon landing.
"Is this really happening?" Ramsay said to our partners at NBC News. "Is somebody really putting their hands in between the seats touching me?"
The lawsuit also says Frontier failed to cooperate and assist Ramsay with evidence concerning her assault, including refusing to provide her (or the FBI) with the identities of her assailant and potential witnesses.
The other woman, who is using the pseudonym Jane Doe in litigation to protect her privacy, says in the lawsuit that while on a flight from Denver to Florida, she was sexually assaulted by a male passenger.
Similarly to Ramsay, the woman says she reported her assault to a flight attendant, the flight attendant did not report the incident to anyone else, and the flight attendant did not ask that law enforcement be contacted to meet the plane upon landing.
Doe's attorney Pamela Maass claims Frontier does not have as strong policies and procedures to handle sexual assaults as it does for drunk or unruly passengers.
"If you were punched, someone would come," she said. "They'd be taken off the flight. Police would be called. The FBI would be called. The pilot would be notified. This person would be detained. You would be made safe. That's not what happened in these cases."
Instead, Maass said all passengers were allowed to leave including potential witnesses and the alleged perpetrators. She said the FBI didn't start investigating until it was too late.
"You're completely ignored," Maass said. "You're treated like what has happened to you doesn't matter."
New York-based Attorney Annika Martin is representing both women and potentially others in the class-action lawsuit.
"In an individual lawsuit, the only thing you can get is money. In a class action, you can get money, but you can also get change," Martin said. "Really what we want is industry-wide change. We want the airlines to make it safe for their passengers. That is their duty."
Martin said this lawsuit addresses a serious problem that has yet to be seriously addressed.
"In-flight passenger-on-passenger sexual assaults is a real problem," she said. "This case is really important because not only are these two brave women standing up to get accountability and justice for themselves, but for everyone else who has been sexually assaulted on a plane or who has been put at risk."
A spokeswoman for Frontier said she can't comment on the lawsuit but said the safety of passengers and employees is Frontier's top priority.
The lawsuit says in June 2018, the FBI issued a statement claiming the number of sexual assaults reported during commercial airline flights is increasing “at an alarming rate,” and the number of actual cases could be much higher than those reported.
The FBI also noted what should happen in response to a passenger reporting an incident to a member of the flight crew:
Flight attendants and captains represent authority on the plane … they can alert law enforcement, and they can sometimes deal with the problem in the air. The flight crew can also put the offender on notice, which might prevent further problems. If alerted in advance [by the pilot radioing ahead to the airport], FBI agents can be on hand when the plane lands to conduct interviews and take subjects into custody. FBI victim specialists can respond as well, because victims of federal crimes are entitled by law to a variety of services.
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