Emirates Passenger Self-Upgrades to First Class, Then Allegedly Sexually Assaults Crew
Self-upgrading — the rare but often disruptive case of passengers who decide to go sit in a higher class of service without permission — can lead to disturbing scenes. In one recent case on Emirates, it landed the passenger responsible in court. A flight attendant he had allegedly sexually assaulted said the airline had suspended her in the wake of the incident, an account that Emirates disputes.
According to a report in the Emirati newspaper Khaleej Times, the case was debated at the Dubai Court of First Instance last Sunday, when the flight attendant who was allegedly assaulted and harassed by the self-upgrading passenger testified about the incident. The longtime Emirates crew member told the prosecutor that she was in charge of the flight attendants aboard an Airbus A380 from Los Angeles to Dubai on April 13. The 31-year-old man, who is now facing multiple charges, took it upon himself to move from his economy seat to an upper-deck premium seat. The man didn't just self-upgrade; he self-upgraded twice, in the crew member's description of events.
"We faced a problem with one passenger — the defendant — who was traveling in the economy class and moved on his own to the business class," she said in court. "He would not want to listen to me as I tried to explain to him about the airline's regulations. He then moved to the first class and put the earpiece on while insulting me."
The passenger's father then approached the flight attendant to defuse the situation, however, the passenger would call on her again later in the flight. "He then called me names and followed me to the upper floor," said the flight attendant. "He twisted my arm and groped me for a few seconds. The man damaged my work card as I screamed at him to let go of me. During the police interrogation, he said that I was not his type."
The defendant also allegedly told the victim that he would "get her sacked" along with her supervisor, who witnessed the assault. He also claimed that "he had connections in the Dubai Police."
The plaintiff had been working as a flight attendant for Emirates for 12 years. She said that this was the first time she had ever dealt with something of this nature aboard a flight. She said that the airline ultimately decided to suspend her, which the airline denies.
"I was suspended and did not receive my salary for one month pending my mental evaluation by a psychiatrist," she said in a tearful testimony. She had apparently been deemed unfit to deal with passengers, according to the report by the Khaleej Times.
Emirates denied that the suspension ever happened.
"Emirates takes the safety of its passengers and crew very seriously. The cabin crew from this flight is being given full support and was never suspended without pay," a statement emailed to TPG by an airline spokesperson said. "We cannot comment further on the alleged incident as this matter is now before the courts.
The trial will resume on September 10.
Edit: This story was updated with a statement from Emirates Airline.