Michigan Woman Says She Was Sexually Assaulted on a Spirit Airlines Flight: 'Women Are Not Safe'

Robyn Merrett
Michigan Woman Says She Was Sexually Assaulted on a Spirit Airlines Flight: 'Women Are Not Safe'

A Michigan woman is calling for action after she says she was sexually assaulted while sleeping on a Spirit Airlines flight.

Tia Jackson, 22, says the horrifying incident unfolded early Tuesday morning when she was on a 7 a.m. flight to Detroit from Atlanta, Georgia.

Jackson, a student at Eastern Michigan University and mother to a 10-month-old baby boy, tells PEOPLE she was going in and out of sleep — as the plane was descending — when she felt the hand of the man sitting beside her caressing her thigh.

“I could feel him being real jittery. He kept moving. I thought he was cold. He took off his coat, sat it across his lap — and I’m thinking he was cold, so I’m not paying attention,” Jackson says.

“Next thing you know, I felt his hand on my thigh,” Jackson alleges.

Jackson explains she initially thought that maybe the man was just trying to get comfortable and had not purposely touched her, so she leaned closer on her friend (who was sitting on the other side of her on the flight) to give him some room.

“When he noticed I moved away, he slid his hands in my pants and then he touched my thigh and then part of my butt,” Jackson alleges, adding that the man was “pleasuring himself” underneath his coat.

This time, Jackson says she reacted, prompting the man to “snatch his hand back.”

Courtesy Tia Jackson
Courtesy Tia Jackson

“He tried to play it off,” Jackson alleges.

Alarmed and afraid, Jackson says she rang for a flight attendant in hopes of having the man removed from her row.

However, instead of being met with sympathy, Jackson alleges that the flight attendant told her, “If he keeps touching you, you should move.”

“I’m like, ‘That’s crazy.’ They basically told me to sit back down and I had to make a scene and I had to refuse sitting down because the pilot wouldn’t move until I sat down. That’s when they removed him from my row.”

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“They asked if he touched me and he said ‘No,'” Jackson tells PEOPLE. “But he was shushing me.”

Making the matter all the more concerning, Jackson alleges that the man walked off the flight “scot-free” once the plane landed. “He got away with touching me with no repercussions,” Jackson says.

Jackson explains she was forced to report the incident to police at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport after the flight attendants refused to call on her behalf.

“Spirit was acting like they weren’t going to do anything about it,” Jackson says. “Even the pilot told me to go into the airport towards the front desk to ask for police assistance.”

 

Courtesy Tia Jackson

Jackson says she then walked to the Spirit Airlines ticket counter, where she was able to talk to police in person.

“They told me they are taking this serious,” Jackson says, adding that she filled out an incident report.

The Detroit Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Still angry, Jackson explains she decided to bring the incident to social media after not getting a response out of the airline at the time of the alleged assault.

“This is really sad because after being a victim of sexual assault and to be sexually assaulted while flying with Spirit Airlines — this is sad nobody did anything! Nobody called the police nothing!!” Jackson wrote on Instagram.

In screengrabs obtained by PEOPLE, an account believed to belong to Spirit Airlines is seen watching Jackson’s Instagram Stories detailing the incident.

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The account later sent Jackson a direct message writing, “We appreciate you sharing this with us. Please provide your full name as it appears on the reservation, your 6-digit confirmation code, and the best email to reach you.”

Spirit Airlines also responded to the incident in a statement to PEOPLE saying, “We take this claim seriously and are in direct contact with the guest. We thank our crew for their quick and professional assistance to address the situation.”

“Our flight attendants on board that flight learned of the alleged incident 18 minutes prior to landing when the guest pressed the call button and received immediate attention. Once she told the flight attendant who came to her seat, the flight attendant directed her to a different seat. The cabin crew wanted to move her, as opposed to him, because the move would have left him with an empty seat on one side and an aisle on the other,” Spirit explains. “The crew wanted to keep the male guest isolated in that row. The female guest was asked to move to another open seat to quickly separate the parties.”

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“By the time the guest declined to move, landing was imminent and everyone had to be seated as required by federal regulation. Law enforcement began its investigation immediately after the flight arrived. We are supporting law enforcement as they investigate.”

“It was a Spirit team member who reported this to local law enforcement. The FBI is currently investigating,” Spirit adds.

Jackson tells PEOPLE she declined to move “because I’m not the one that should have been moved.”

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.