Posted by on December 1, 2017 10:45 pm
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Categories: American Airlines Group Aviation Business Economy Economy of the United States facebook mark zuckerberg Mexico NBC Twitter United States Senate

We have to admit we didn’t know anything about Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, Randi, before she created a media storm by complaining about a sexual harassment incident she suffered while travelling on Alaska Air.

Randi Zuckerberg worked at advertising giant, Ogilvy & Mather, before joining her brother at Facebook for ten years from 2004-14. These days she has various media interests, including founding Zuckerberg Media.

Alaska Airlines has launched an investigation into the incident after Zuckerberg complained in a letter that the man to her right….

“began making explicit, lewd, and highly offensive sexual comments to me, immediately upon boarding the aircraft. He started talking to me about touching himself, kept asking me if I fantasized about the female business colleague I was travelling with, rated and commented on the women’s bodies boarding the aircraft as they walked by us, and many more equally horrifying and offensive comments.”

It seems that the Alaskan Air cabin crew didn’t exactly ride to the rescue of this damsel in distress, who got caught up in this “silent epidemic. According to Bloomberg

Mark Zuckerberg’s sister isn’t the first to complain about sexual misconduct on jetliners — a problem a prominent flight attendants’ union called a “silent epidemic” that airlines have failed to solve. Randi Zuckerberg, a media executive, said this week that a male passenger on an Alaska Air Group Inc. flight made repeated harassing comments to her and airline employees did nothing about it. In a letter to the carrier posted on social media, the sister of the Facebook Inc. founder said the crew members continued to serve the abusive customer alcoholic drinks and told her not to “take it personally.”

Zuckerberg’s description of the incident on a trip from Los Angeles to Mazatlan, Mexico, drew widespread media attention and Alaska Airlines temporarily revoked the passenger’s travel privileges, pending an investigation.

The flight attendants union is asking the airlines to address the harassment issues, using a zero tolerance approach. Bloomberg continues…

Still, airlines must take stronger action to crack down on in-flight sexual harassment and assault, said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

“Let’s be clear that this is not an Alaska problem,” Nelson said in a statement Thursday. “It is an issue at the forefront of national awareness and it is a critical time for the airline industry to examine the steps necessary to take this on.”

Nelson said she is seeking a zero tolerance policy and specific regulations to address the issue. “For too long unacceptable sexual innuendo, harassment advances, and assault have been a silent epidemic in our society and certainly on our planes,” she wrote.

Showing a degree of foresight, the flight attendants union conducted a survey in 2016 as to whether its members had any knowledge of how to deal with the type of problem Zuckerberg found herself in. Very few, as Bloomberg explains. 

Such incidents across all industries are under heightened scrutiny as more women go public with allegations against powerful men, from film producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey to U.S. Representative John Conyers and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. NBC fired “Today” show host Matt Lauer this week after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.

The AFA conducted a member survey last year that showed the majority of flight attendants had no knowledge of written guidance or training on this specific issue available through their airline, Nelson said. Sexual harassment training is only mandatory in California, Connecticut and Maine, although most large companies have training for at least some of their employees.

The survey of about 2,000 attendants also found that 20 percent of crew members had experienced a report of a mid-flight sexual assault by a passenger against another passenger, and in those cases law enforcement was contacted or met the plane only about 40 percent of the time.

Zuckerberg pointed out the irony that the passenger who harassed her remarked on the recent flurry of cases in the media and how “these Millennial women just aren’t willing to give some booty to get a job anymore”. While clearly a very reprehensible character, it was also obvious from Zuckerberg letter what contributed to his lewd tirade as she noted that at one point he was drinking “three alcoholic beverages”. Another airline passenger who was assaulted last year confirmed how poorly the cabin crew dealt with her incident, which is still being investigated.

Allison Dvaladze said she was assaulted while flying to Amsterdam in April of last year. The incident, which is still under investigation, prompted her to start the Facebook page, “Protect airline passengers from sexual assault.” She also worked with U.S. Senator Robert Casey, from Pennsylvania, to introduce the “Stopping Assault while Flying Enforcement Act of 2017,” which was referred to committee in July, she said. The law would require crew training and better data collection on assault in the air.

“I travel a lot, I had never heard of this before it happened to me,” said Dvaladze, who flies as part of her work to bring cancer screening to under-represented groups. “It was a real shock to me when it happened. But what was more of a shock to me was that it wasn’t a surprise to the crew, yet at the same time they had no idea what to do. If the crew isn’t armed with the right tools, they can’t handle it.”

Meanwhile, Alaska Air is, unsurprisingly in full-on damage limitation mode, and the industry in general is stirring into action.

In a Thursday blog post on Alaska Airlines’ website, Vice President of People Andrea Schneider addressed a case of sexual harassment on an Alaska flight from Los Angeles to Mazatlan. Schneider called the report “very disturbing” without identifying the accuser.

“The safety and well-being of our guests and employees is our number one priority,” Schneider wrote. “As a company, we have zero tolerance for any type of misconduct that creates an unsafe environment for our guests and our employees.”

Carriers take the issue seriously, said Vaughn Jennings, spokesman for trade group Airlines for America. “Employees receive extensive customer-service training to ensure the safety and well-being of all our passengers,” he said in a statement.

Bloomberg notes that Zuckerberg’s disclosure on Twitter and (of course) Facebook prompted “thousands of comments and shares, many from women who said they had been harassed on flights and ignored by flight crews and the airlines”.

While Zuckerberg said on Facebook that she wasn’t going to identify the passenger because she didn’t want to make it a “personal vendetta”, she did note he was sitting in “seat 4C”.

The question is how long will it take the media to “out” him.

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