National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force
On October 5, 2018, President Trump signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (FAA Act), Pub. L. No. 115-254, 132 Stat. 3186 (2018). Section 339A of the FAA Act requires the Secretary of Transportation to establish a task force, to be known as the “National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force”. The Department established the National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force (Task Force), a subcommittee of the Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC) to carry out the requirements of Section 339A of the FAA Act. The Task Force will review and evaluate current practices, protocols, and requirements of U.S. airlines in responding to and reporting allegations by passengers of sexual misconduct on board commercial aircraft. It will also provide recommendations on best practices relating to training, reporting, and data collection regarding incidents of sexual misconduct by passengers onboard commercial aircraft. On March 16, 2020, the Task Force submitted its report to the ACPAC.
Task Force Members
The Secretary selected Task Force members for their expertise in the travel industry or their relevant subject matter expertise as well as their willingness and ability to actively participate in meeting the Task Force’s objective. The Task Force members are:
- Judith S. Kaleta, Deputy General Counsel, DOT, as DOT representative and Chair of Sexual Misconduct Task Force.
- Allison Ausband, Senior Vice President for In Flight Service, Delta Air Lines, as representative of airlines.
- Christopher Bidwell, Senior Vice President, Security, Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), as representative of airports.
- Katherine Chon, Director of Office on Trafficking in Persons, HHS, as representative of HHS.
- Darlene Hutchinson Biehl, Director of Office for Victims of Crime, DOJ, as representative of DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime.
- David L. Maggard, Chief, Los Angeles Airport Police, as representative of state and local law enforcement agencies.
- Sunitha Menon, Chief of Consulting Services Operations, Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), as representative of national organizations providing services to sexual assault victims.
- Lyn Montgomery, President, Transport Workers Union – Local 556, as representative of labor organizations representing flight attendants.
- Kaori Paris, United Airlines Pilot, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), as representative of labor organizations representing pilots.
- Eben Peck, Executive Vice President of Advocacy, American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), as representative of national travel organizations.
- Sharon Pinkerton, Senior Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Policy, Airlines for America, as representative of airlines.
- Matthew Ploskunak, Program Manager of International Violent Crimes, FBI, as representative of the FBI.
- Frances Smith, Adjunct Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute, as representative of consumers.
- Katherine Sullivan, Acting Director of Office on Violence Against Women, DOJ, as representative of DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women.
Blane Workie, the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, serves as the Designated Federal Officer for the Task Force.
Task Force Report
Pursuant to Section 339A of the FAA Act, not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of the FAA Act (October 5, 2018), the Task Force shall submit a report with its recommendations on best practices relating to training, reporting, and data collection regarding incidents of sexual misconduct by passengers onboard commercial aircraft. On March 16, 2020, the Task Force submitted its report to the Department's Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee.
Secretary of Transportation's Reports to Congress
Pursuant to Section 339A of the FAA Act, not later than 180 days after receiving the report required under this Section, the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with relevant federal agencies, shall submit a report to the appropriate committees of Congress a plan to address the recommendations in the report.
Task Force Docket
Members of the public can share their views and concerns with the Task Force. Written comments may be submitted to the Task Force docket (DOT-OST-2019-0045). If individuals wish to submit confidential information that they do not wish to be made publicly available, they should submit one copy with a cover note that states “This document contains confidential information.” The second copy should have the confidential information redacted/blacked out and that copy will be available for public viewing. If an individual does not wish for his or her name and contact information to be made publicly available, then he or she can provide this information on the cover note that is marked confidential and not in the body of the comments.
Task Force Operations
The Task Force had one or two-day meetings in April, May, June, and July of 2019.
- April 2019 Meeting: The first meeting of the Task Force was held on April 10, 2019, with four areas of focus: (1) the definition of sexual misconduct, (2) training, (3) data collection, and (4) reporting. During this foundational meeting, Task Force members presented in their respective areas of expertise to ensure a better understanding of the problem. For example, DOT provided information on the complaints that it has received from members of the public alleging sexual misconduct during flights. The presentations led to discussions on current airline training practices for flight attendants, pilots, and others in responding to reported incidents of sexual misconduct. Task Force members also discussed current law enforcement and data collection practices and existing ways passengers report incidents.
- May 2019 Meeting: At the second meeting, held on May 22, 2019, the Task Force hosted an all-day listening session to hear first-hand accounts from individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct onboard a commercial aircraft. The Task Force heard about the process individuals followed to report incidents of in-flight sexual misconduct to the airline or law enforcement, learned about the action the airline or law enforcement took, or did not take, to act on those reports, and heard from the victims on what actions they believe the airline or law enforcement could have taken to address the incidents. Task Force members discussed training, data collection, passenger awareness campaigns, and reporting protocols in light of the incidents shared during the listening session.
- June 2019 Meeting: The Task Force held its third meeting on June 26 and June 27, 2019. This two-day meeting included a listening session and further discussions on defining sexual misconduct, data collection, reporting, and awareness. During the listening session, a flight attendant shared her experience with incidents of sexual misconduct on airplanes which included instances where she was the victim and others where airline passengers were the victims. A consumer rights organization, not represented on the Task Force, also presented regarding its concerns about inflight sexual misconduct and provided recommendations to address it. The Task Force continued to discuss ways to increase awareness about inflight sexual misconduct, and worked to develop a definition of sexual misconduct in light of the incidents shared during the listening sessions. In addition, the Task Force discussed data collection purposes and practices.
- July 2019 Meeting: The Task Force held its fourth meeting on July 24, 2019. During this meeting, the Task Force focused on reporting practices, including how passengers who experience in-flight sexual misconduct communicate with airlines staff, how best to obtain relevant contact information from victims and alleged perpetrators, and how and when to contact law enforcement. Lastly, the Task Force discussed additional data collection practices by airlines and reviewed airline definitions of sexual misconduct. The Task Force continued to take into consideration information shared during the listening sessions in May and June during these discussions.
- September 2019 Meeting: The Task Force held its fifth meeting over two-days, September 24 and 25, 2019. During this meeting, the Task Force focused on airline training relating to incidents of sexual misconduct, including which personnel should receive training, frequency of training, and content of training program. The Task Force also discussed sexual misconduct training provided in other industries with similar challenges. In addition, the Task Force explored areas of consensus for its report on passenger awareness, data collection, reporting practices and training. The Task Force continued to take into consideration information shared during the earlier listening sessions to inform its discussion.
- October and November 2019 Teleconferences: The Task Force had telephone conferences in October and November to discuss the content of the Task Force Report.
- March 16, 2020: the Task Force submitted its report to the Department's Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee.