Woman says airline tried to blame her after man groped her

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan woman who says she was groped by a male passenger on a Spirit Airlines flight says airline staff tried to blame her and asked her to move to another seat after she reported the assault.

Tia Jackson, 22, said she was on a flight from Atlanta to Detroit on Tuesday morning when she was groped as she was sleeping. The Westland woman told CNN she was sitting in a middle seat with a friend seated by the window when a man seated in the aisle seat assaulted her just before landing.

Jackson said she jumped up when she felt the man’s hand inside the back of her pants, and told him to stop. She said she immediately pushed the call button and alerted airline staff, but a flight attendant tried to blame her and asked her to move.

“I said you have to get him away from me,” Jackson told WJBK-TV. “They said, ‘If it was such a problem or it was bothering you so much, why didn’t you move?’”

Spirit Airlines said it takes Jackson’s allegation seriously and explained the staff’s rationale in asking her to move.

“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,” the airline said in a statement.

Jackson said she refused to move because she didn’t want to leave her friend and she felt like she was being punished for what the man had done. She filed a report with the police at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which is located in the suburb of Romulus, after the flight landed.

“He needs to be held responsible. He is a predator,” Jackson said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the man was taken into custody after the flight. The FBI is investigating the alleged assault, said Lisa Gass, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Airport Authority.

FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider said that the allegations were reported Tuesday to airport police and then to the federal agency. She said Wednesday that she cannot comment further “because the investigation is ongoing.”

Spirit Airlines said that it’s “supporting law enforcement as they investigate.”