Woman claims airline paid her 'hush money' after seatmate did something shocking

Elise Solé

A woman claims a man masturbated next to her on a recent United Airlines flight, and the airline paid her $75USD in “hush money” after she complained.

Mikaela Dixon, 21, was seated on a United flight from California to Illinois on August 11 with her boyfriend when she noticed that the man next to her was touching himself.

“I just spent hours next to a guy who was mαsturbating on this flight. My bf was asleep in the window seat, I’m in the middle, and the man is in the aisle. I had no idea what to do, I couldn’t get up because I didn’t want to go anywhere near him,” she tweeted about the incident. 

Mikaela explained that she “sat there shaking” until the man stopped to use the restroom as the plane was landing. She reported the incident to the crew, but the man, realising that he had been caught, “bolted” off the plane after landing. He was then detained by United’s security crew and later released.

“United airlines gave me $75 and told me I’m not allowed to know what happens to him unless I press charges against him,” Mikaela tweeted. “Sooo I got my hush money and now I have to wonder forever whether this guy got away with it? F*** that.”

“Basically, United lied about everything, let the man go after a few questions, and refused to involve law enforcement until I called the cops myself and forced them to file a report w the FBI,” she later tweeted.

Mikaela did not return Yahoo Lifestyle‘s request for comment; however, she told BuzzFeed that the man, who appeared to be in his 50s, was “rubbing himself” with his hand in his pocket and “making noises and breathing heavily.”

A woman says she received “hush money” from United Airlines after she reported an inappropriate seatmate. (Photo: Getty Images)

The airline initially said it had called the police to meet the man at the gate, but later clarified that authorities had never been called, at the discretion of the flight crew and gate agent, according to BuzzFeed.

A representative from United sent the following statement to Yahoo Lifestyle: “The safety and well-being of our customers is our top priority. Our customer was immediately moved to a different seat when the flight attendants were made aware of the issue and the aircraft was met by our security personnel. We are investigating the matter to learn more about what happened. Although United Airlines, as a company, cannot press charges on our customers’ behalf, we will provide as much assistance as possible to law enforcement authorities should they investigate this matter further.”

Sexual assault on airplanes is alarmingly common. (Photo: Getty Images)

On Thursday, the New York Times reported on two other cases. A man named Nicholas Matthew Stevens, 37, was charged with one count of abusive sexual contact in a commercial airspace for assaulting a 22-year-old woman aboard an Alaskan Airlines flight from Anchorage to Seattle in March. He was allegedly trying to hold the victim’s hand and grabbing her breast and thigh.

The second case occurred in January aboard a Norwegian Airlines flight from London to Seattle. According to the Times, a woman claimed she spent “hours” fighting off a passenger after she awoke to find his hand inside her underwear and her hand on his penis. The flight crew found the woman curled up in the fetal position on the floor at the back of the plane. The man, 41-year-old Babak Rezapour of Van Nuys, Calif., was charged with abusive sexual contact aboard an aircraft, and he has denied the woman’s claims. 

April statistics published by the FBI illustrated that in 2014, 38 cases of sexual assault aboard an airplane (a felony that carries possible jail time) were reported to the FBI; in 2017, there were 63 reported cases.

“The attacks generally occur on long-haul flights when the cabin is dark,” reads the organisation’s press release. “The victims are usually in middle or window seats, sleeping, and covered with a blanket or jacket. They report waking up to their seatmate’s hands inside their clothing or underwear.”

“Unfortunately, people don’t think things like this happen on airplanes,” Caryn Highley, a special agent said, in the press release. “There is a perception on an airplane that you’re in a bubble of safety.”

Flight attendants also experience sexual harassment — a survey released in May by the Association of Flight Attendants found that it’s happened to more than two-thirds of US crew members. Even after the emergence of the #MeToo movement, 68 percent of attendants claim that airlines aren’t prioritising workplace sexual harassment.

According to the FBI, passengers should stay alert while flying, avoiding mixing alcohol with medication; keep the armrest down if one’s seatmate is a stranger; and report anyone suspicious to the flight crew, asking specifically to record the suspect’s identity and report the incident.

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