News Releases

Led by Senator Murray, provision included in FAA reauthorization bill to establish the National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force was first inspired by her legislation the SAFE Act

Senator Murray: “If you sexually assault or harass another passenger or member of the flight crew, even at 35,000 feet, there must be consequences”

Senator Murray will continue to push for mandatory training as well as data collection on incidents, which is key to understanding scope of the problem

KIRO 7: Sen. Murray leads national effort to combat in-flight sexual assault LINK

U.S. Senator Patty Murray (center) joined local resident and survivor Allison Dvaladze (center right, rear), Port of Seattle, and law enforcement officials at SeaTac Airport on September 20th, 2018 to discuss her SAFE Act legislation and other efforts being taken to address growing incidences of sexual assault aboard airplanes. Read more HERE.

(Washington, D.C.)  – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 now before Congress includes a provision to establish a national task force that was inspired by her legislation, the Stopping Assault while Flying Enforcement Act, or the SAFE Act, S. 1605. The National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force will be tasked with issuing recommendations to ensure airlines are properly responding to and addressing in-flight sexual misconduct, including training, reporting, data collection, and law enforcement notification. The U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary must make changes to guidance, policies, and regulations based upon the task force’s recommendation within two and a half years. To help survivors seek justice, the Attorney General is required to develop and make public a process for individuals to report in-flight sexual misconduct to law enforcement. Senator Murray and her colleague Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) have been leading efforts in Congress to address sexual assault and harassment incidents aboard flights, calling for new requirements on training, reporting, data collection, as well as the creation of a national task force. 

“Establishing a national task force is an important step forward in our efforts to start addressing sexual assault and harassment on flights,” Senator Murray said. “It makes clear that commercial flights are not law-free zones. If you sexually assault or harass another passenger or member of the flight crew, even at 35,000 feet, there must be consequences. I look forward to getting this provision signed into law, but our work doesn’t end here. I will push the Transportation Secretary to set up the task force as soon as possible and to implement the recommendations in good faith. I will also keep fighting for additional measures to ensure flight crews have the tools and training necessary to respond and to collect data on incidents so we can make even more progress helping survivors of sexual assault and harassment seek justice.”

A longtime advocate for policies to prevent sexual assault and provide justice and support to survivors, Senator Murray began looking into the problem of sexual assault and harassment on airplanes after hearing from Seattle resident Allison Dvaladze and her story of surviving an in-flight sexual assault. In 2016, Senator Murray worked with Senator Casey to urge the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Aviation Administration to take action to strengthen airline requirements to ensure flight crews are prepared to respond to and support survivors of sexual assault when it occurs during a flight. This was followed by raising Allison’s story directly with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and introduction of the SAFE Act in 2017. In June Senator Murray led her colleagues in a letter to Secretary Chao urging her to establish the task force to address in-flight sexual assault and harassment as directed by Congress in the bipartisan 2018 spending deal. The importance of addressing in-flight sexual assault is underscored by the increase in the number of cases opened by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate sexual assault on airplanes, jumping from 38 cases in Fiscal Year 2014 to 63 cases in Fiscal Year 2017.

"I am grateful to Senator Murray and her staff for their leadership and commitment to this issue and call on Congress to support this legislation. I appeal to the airline industry to respect the health and safety of your crew and passengers by taking urgent action to develop protocols, provide trauma-informed response training, and document and report assaults to the authorities. Additionally, I call on airlines to deter would-be assailants by stating in your in-flight messaging that you have a zero tolerance policy for assault against passengers and crew,” said Ms. Dvaladze. “It is unacceptable to put the burden of addressing these crimes on crew, who may themselves be survivors of assault, without giving them the proper tools.”

Provisions included in FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018:

  • Section 338: Expresses the Sense of Congress that all airlines should have policies and procedures in place to address sexual misconduct, including reporting to law enforcement; communicating the rights of employees and passengers; and training employees on responding to sexual misconduct.
  • Section 339: Establishes a civil penalty for sexually assaulting or the threat of sexually assaulting a member of the flight crew, cabin crew, or other individual on the airplane and increases the current civil penalty for interference from $25,000 to $35,000.
  • Section 339A: Requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish the National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force to review current airline practices, protocols, and requirements in responding to and addressing in-flight sexual misconduct by passengers, including training, reporting, and data collection. The Task Force must review and utilize first-hand accounts from passengers who have experienced in-flight sexual misconduct. The Task Force must deliver a report to the Secretary of Transportation with recommendations on training, reporting, data collection, and law enforcement notification within 1 year of enactment. Within 180 days of receiving this report, the Secretary of Transportation must submit a plan to Congress to address the Task Force’s recommendations. Within 1 year of submitting this plan, DOT is required to make changes to guidance, policies, and regulations based upon the Task Force’s recommendations. Further, within 1 year of submitting the plan, DOT is directed to issue regulations to require all airlines to develop a policy concerning sexual misconduct based upon the Task Force’s recommendations. These provisions are based upon the SAFE Act.
  • Section 399B: Within 2 years of enactment, requires the Attorney General to develop and make public the process for individuals to report in-flight sexual misconduct to law enforcement based upon the Task Force’s recommendations. These provisions are based upon the SAFE Act.

Find bill text HERE.

Find a bill summary HERE.

The House is expected to vote on the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 first. The current FAA authorization expires Sunday, September 30th.