Baltimore, Maryland – The FBI is issuing a warning for travelers to stay alert, advising passengers that sexual assaults during commercial flights is on the rise at “an alarming rate.”
According to CNN, the FBI reported investigations in midair sexual assaults have increased by 66% from fiscal year 2014 to 2017 and agents say the number of actual cases could be much higher than what is reported.
The Bureau reportedly opened 63 investigations into sexual assault on aircraft in 2017. Agents say they are not sure why they are seeing an increase.
Federal authorities say the attacks often happen on long flights or when the cabin is dark. They say victims are usually in the middle or window seats and are sleeping. Many are covered with a blanket or jacket at the time of the assault.
Agents say offenders will often test their victims by brushing up against them to see how they will react or wake up if the victim is asleep.
The FBI offers some safety advice. First and foremost passengers are advised; ‘trust your gut.’ Many times if something does not feel right instincts can be correct.
Passengers are also reminded to not mix alcohol or sleeping pills and to keep the arm-rest down between you and the person sitting next to you.
If an incident occurs, passengers are advised to report the issue immediately.
Sexual assault on an aircraft is a federal crime.