A woman on a United Airlines flight from London to Chicago says flight attendants made disrespectful jokes and excuses when she alerted them to a man who was masturbating next to her on the flight.
In an Instagram post on Saturday, Genevieve Pascolla, a 26-year-old photographer based in Chicago, shared a harrowing experience she had on a United flight in early June. According to Pascolla, she awoke from a nap to see the man next to her masturbating under a blanket. Disgusted and horrified, Pascolla went to the flight attendants to alert them of the situation. “The attendants checked and confirmed that he was masturbating in public,” Pascolla wrote in her Instagram post.
View this post on Instagram
⚠️*Trigger Warning*⚠️ On June 4th I was on a #unitedairlines flight from Heathrow to Chicago. On this flight the man next to me started masturbating I woke up and saw him touching himself under a blanket (see attached video) I woke the woman next to me and got out of there to tell a flight attendant the attendants checked and confirmed that he was masturbating in public. Once I got up the woman next to me saw and she also got up. They gave us new seats. They then started making jokes about the situation asking “what perfume are you wearing” and excusing him saying “he’s had a bit of wine” no one stopped him. He was allowed to finish, with a child sitting closely by. After exiting the plane first to talk to security the security guard asked me if I’d like an apology from the offender I immediately rejected the request. It took @unitedairlines a month an a half to respond to my complaint. And I received this email today. I am appalled at the lack of action taken in this situation in which as a woman, I was terrified. This man is clearly capable of much more. So women and men out there pick an airline that cares about your safety. #unitedairlines referring to being assaulted on one of your flight as a “uncomfortable experience” is a bit of an understatement. (See email) your lack of action is disgusting. @united #unitedairlines #metoo
The attendants moved Pascolla and another woman in the same row who also stood up to get away from the man, to different seats on the plane. This seems like a reasonable first step, but unfortunately, things only devolved further from there. According to BuzzFeed News, she told the flight attendants about a similar experience she had on public transportation. “They then started making jokes about the situation asking ‘what perfume are you wearing’ and excusing him saying ‘he’s had a bit of wine,’” Pascolla wrote in her Instagram post. She also says the flight attendants did nothing to stop the man from masturbating on the flight, and that he was allowed to finish, even though there was a child nearby.
A United Airlines spokesperson spoke to BuzzFeed News about the situation, saying that “inappropriate and offensive conduct like this” is rare, but they have a protocol in place. “That’s why, in this case, our customers were promptly moved to different seats in a different section of the plane and law enforcement officials were summoned in advance to meet the perpetrator when the plane pulled into the gate.”
The spokesperson also said Pascolla was compensated for her flight, though Pascolla’s Instagram post shows a screenshot of an email where the company initially rejected her request for compensation, and simply apologized for the “uncomfortable situation.” In the comments on the post, Pascolla posted an update, saying, “I was given a travel voucher for half my flight apparently they do not do refunds? (Not particularly thrilled to fly United again).”
H/T BuzzFeed News