Man Banned From Airline For Touching Flight Attendant’s Backside, Says He’ll Sue

On an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland to San Diego on Tuesday first class passenger Mike Timon was accused of “touching the flight attendant’s buttocks,” and has been banned from the airline.

He says he “he touched the woman ‘politely’ on her back — not her buttocks — to get her attention and order a drink.”

I do not think he understands how you order a drink, because it doesn’t involve touching a woman’s low back region that descends towards her buttocks (or touching her at all for that matter). I find that a simple “excuse me” usually works if I cannot get a flight attendant’s attention non-verbally.

And though it’s fairly verboten to use the call button at your seat in anything but a life threatening emergency in the U.S. (it shouldn’t be) that too would be much preferred. Indeed, the man didn’t get his drink (another flight attendant let him know he was ‘cut off’ when he pressed the call button to complain he hadn’t been served) but he did get met by police on arrival in San Diego.

Timon, who said he is a frequent first-class flier, said that after he touched the flight attendant and requested a drink, none came.

He said he later pressed his call button, and a male flight attendant came by and told him he’d had been cut off from alcohol, that he’d assaulted the flight attendant and that police would be waiting for him in San Diego.

The longtime owner of a company that bought and sold medical equipment said he’d had one drink, was not unruly and was “100 percent sober” at the time of the encounter.

Oh, he says it’s discrimination that his behavior is being made into a big deal. And he’s threatening legal action.

“What about us guys?” Timon said. “I can’t tap a flight attendant on her back to politely ask for something, yet I get accused of something? It’s out of control and I am pissed.”

Sexual harassment of flight attendants should not be permitted. Full stop. And no, a passenger cannot “tap a flight attendant on the back.” What is wrong with people? The striking thing about this story is that he’s incredulous.

It would be a mistake, however, to link zero tolerance for that sort of behavior with “reinforc[ing] our safety role as aviation’s first responders” as Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson seeks to do. “Here primarily for your safety” is code to every frequent flyer for indifference towards service.

Saying flight attendants deserve decency and respect does not mean flight attendants aren’t ambassadors for an airline’s brand and that their job doesn’t involve customer service. Put another way customer service has nothing to do with sex.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. And we all jump to the conclusion that the guy touched her buttocks. Don’t tell me you have never ran into a crew that ignored everyone. That had a bad day, that did not want to do anything but talk amongst them self’s ? And they said nothing to him until he pushed the call button? Come on.
    This rush to place blame is appalling. I have been flying for over 55 years and been touched in a few choice spots by flight crews.

  2. Oh FFS. Touching someone’s back shouldn’t be misconstrued as “sexual touching”. I’m no snowflake, nor am I an uncouth heathen. People need to chill out a bit. (I will push the call button if service doesn’t occur within a reasonable amount of time or if FA stroll back and forth and don’t respond to verbal requests or a polite hand wave.)

  3. The sooner this kind of lecherous and seriously entitled behavior ends the better. Old male prick who thinks he’s a big shot because he flies first and contributes to the economy by reselling used medical equipment and somehow he’s entitled to touch female flight attendants. Even without any sexual intent, it’s just plain rude and it would be unacceptable whether the flight attendant were male or female and the offender were male or female. Narcissist could have just offered a simple apology instead of making himself look like an out of touch touchy asshole who loves to touch ass.

  4. Umm…wtf. I seriously doubt he tapped her butt to request a drink. People need to chill the f out. Dollars to donuts her butt is probably wider than the seat to start with. This shit is out of control

  5. I think all airline should install camera for any safety reasons. This could help them investigate more on the incident like this. everyone has their words!

  6. Very seldom is it necessary or appropriate to touch someone at all. An ‘excuse me’ seems appropriate, especially in a plane where it’s virtually impossible to be ignored.

  7. The legal definition of the tort or crime of battery is an intentional unpermitted act causing harmful or offensive contact with the “person” of another.

    No one has a right to touch anyone, regardless of how privileged, or underserved, he or she may feel. When the act is deemed a sexual advance, it goes to the aggravation or offensiveness of the act.

  8. Guys please don’t be dumbasses. Please take your wife’s permission before you touch her and hopefully at every step if you are doing the deed.

    However, if a woman touches you in the public street punch her face, then restrain her and wait till the police arrive to book her for sexual aassault. Not an inch given. There are just too many predators running around.

  9. @ Playalaguna: It’s abundantly clear you failed the bar exam. Battery requires an application of force. There is not one single law enforcement agency in the nation that will arrest you for battery when you tap someone on the shoulder, for example, to get their attention.

    Then there’s the pesky little issue of intent. There must be intent to cause injury.

    Resit your GEDs and try again.

  10. When trying to get someone’s attention, saying excuse me usually works especially if they’re close enough to touch their ass

    Excuse me works in many situations, like, excuse me but why is jc an asshole?

  11. Ray – just shut up. Please. Just shut up.

    FAs touch people ALL the time. On the shoulder. On the arm. Every person wearing headphones with their eyes closed has at some point been touched by an FA at some point.

    I wasn’t there and I’m not trying to defend the passenger. And if he did touch her below the waist that’s – at best – creepy and at worst, criminal. But until we know for sure, let’s stop with the Ray hyperbole and the “WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE” faux-morality. You weren’t there and your hysterics are embarrassing. I expect more critical thought from a “thought leader”, but The Clicks, I guess …

  12. Like if someone is blocking an exit and you tap them on the shoulder to say, “Excuse me, Maureen, please take your lard-ass off the lift so others may exit.”

    Or, “Excuse me, Maureen, kneeling on the sidewalk to give people $2 headjobs is fine, but don’t block pedestrian traffic, please.”

  13. @J.C. has a future in comedy I must say.

    We can all agree sexual harassment is wrong, irrespective of miles or status, and whether it’s pax doing it to FA or vice versa.

    That said, if this pax really just meant to tap the FA’s back to get her attention (because ‘excuse me’ might not work due to loud aircraft engines, wailing babies etc.) then the FA’s interpretation of this as criminal sexual assault is completely over the line.

    If this overreaction becomes normalized then we flyers shall press sex assault charges on all plus size FAs whose buttocks sweep our shoulders every time they come down the aisle.

  14. I think we can be confident this ‘business’ man is a Trump supporter. I saw let’s tar and feather him like they do in red states.

  15. Since we don’t actually know what really happened I’m going with “snowflake flight attendant who overreaction.”

  16. If this were any other crime, think this thread would be full of men who weren’t there second-guessing the flight attendant’s interpretation of events?

  17. Wow, I’ve seen some shitty trolling in my day. But J.C. is a truly shitty troll. You do you, shitty troll.

  18. I agree with you Gary, folks on flights really need to keep their hands to themselves. A simple excuse me would have likely worked. Incidences like these should always require a full investigation, as it is a case of “she said, he said” (barring witnesses), however, I’m more inclined to believe individuals who speak up and point out sexual harassment or assault they’ve experienced. If he did in fact touch her inappropriately, it’s fitting that Alaska ban him. He deserves it.

    Reading through the comments here, J.C. — no reason to post childish comments or attack other commenters. If you’re not going to contribute to the conversation, please do take it elsewhere.

  19. Good for him. His side of the story should be heard. If he did as descibed, it soumds like the flight attendant may have overeeacted,. Apparently, now all yoi have to do is accuse someone of sexual assualt and you are presumed guilty. It is ridiculous.


    Santa Claus Accused of Sexual Harassment for Having Girls Sit on His Lap and Asking Them if They are Naughty.

  21. We really don’ t know what happened. This is so sad. I can’ t tell you the number of times a flight attendant touches me. Many times its on the shoulder because I have my noise cancelling headphones on and can’t hear. Most times is because they back up into my elbow or shoulder while bending over taking a tray from the person across the aisle from me and then their butt crashes into me. They never apologize. They think that it’s something unavoidable in the course of doing their duties. There was one time that accidentally and simultaneously as the flight attendant was backing into me I was getting up to get out of my seat and the back of my hand accidentally hit her butt. I immediately apologized and she said no problem, … but for the rest of the flight she ignored me. Believe me there was absolutely no intent on my part to cop a feel. (And my sexual orientation would be my defense.)

    As for trying to get the flight attendant’s attention, I usually sit in the first two rows of F or Biz, and after I get served my meal, if I need something further, it is almost impossible to get the flight attendant’s attention for them to stop to see what I need. They fly by with their eyes straight forward. Saying excuse me in a normal airplane tone doesn’t work. You have to shout it so loud that everyone for 4 rows all around can hear it – and then you’re an asshole. Or do a semaphore signal with your hand as they are coming by – to almost block their pathway, and then they are pissed. I don’t press the call button because long ago I learned they either don’t answer it, or if they do, they are expecting that it is an emergency.

    So, I believe sexual harassment is real – but it really depends on intent. I don’t know what the answer to this is vis a vis a passenger and a flight attendant. Maybe they should announce the rules at the beginning of each flight during the safety demonstration. I mean, I think everyone in the world by now knows how a seat belt works, but it would be nice if we were all told what the rules are for getting the flight attendant’s attention, and that touching a flight attendant is forbidden, and that it is strictly forbidden. I mean, I bet most of the world still believes that it is OK to touch someone on the shoulder or upper back to get their attention. God knows, I’ve done it a lot (example – person walking down the concourse in front of me drops something – a scarf, glove, etc. – and you shout to tell them and they don’t hear — the only way to get their attention is to tap them on the shoulder.)

    This whole situation is so sad.

  22. Poor Miss EX-LAX, all that pent up anger just because they are still picking on you at school. Maybe if you just tried having that extra chromosome surgically removed.

  23. There is an established method for getting attention. It’s the call button. Passengers should use it when needed, and crews should acknowledge it politely and as promptly as feasible – not resentfully or reluctantly.

  24. So Gary, just so I understand since a passenger can’t touch a flight attendant, can a flight attendant touch a passenger? Because they touch passengers all the time to wake them up to move their seat up to the upright position, or when passengers have headphones on and they are asking about food and beverage options or for a myriad of other reasons. So if it isn’t okay for a flight attendant to touch a passenger then thousands of passengers should be suing flight attendants for sexual assault and having them banned from flying just like this gentlemen since it is a two way street and this gentlemen was tapping the flight attendant (not mentioned in article if male or female) for a drink just like I have been tapped on my last ten flights about food and beverage options by female flight attendants. Should I be filing complaints to have them banned for sexual harassment since I am a male or is there a double standard that this only applies when a male touches a female?

  25. It’s sad how many people are blaming the victim. Flight attendants get poked many times each day on the back. It’s rude and annoying, but not criminal in my eyes. I highly doubt that if it was a polite tap on the shoulder, she would’ve had the police involved. I’m not sure why people are comparing this to a polite tap on the shoulder. He’s being accused of grabbing her ass, that’s sexual assault.

  26. Sue the flight attendant too. The union can claim the airline doesn’t train their attendants on how to provide customer service. It appears Tome another out of control attendant. They don’t want to work. We . will see how facts play out.

  27. Women. Can’t live with em….can’t touch em look at em speak to em think about em talk about em be around em…matter of fact can’t do shit without risking your career, reputation, and family being torched.

    Keep your a head on a swivel out there gents.

  28. Strange, all of the comments that we, as human beings, first and foremost, can’t simply touch one another appropriately. I fly regularly, and I guess I should she many male and female flight attendants because they touch me. I would never be so silly or small. If this man touched this flight attendant inappropriately, he should face the consequences, obviously, that’s completely inappropriate behavior. Nothing more or less. Nothing to be said if his wealth, mileage status, political persuasions, are, gender…all irrelevant here. If he did only touch the flight attendant on the back to seek her attention, then that isn’t a crime, I’ve done the same thing. In narrow aisle planes you have to squeeze past other passengers male and female and flight attendants…how are we going to legislate against all forms of non sexual, accidental, unavoidable touching. Agree with many sentiments, please chill out a bit.

  29. What a bunch of BS! If this man says he “touched her back” and the stewardess says he “touched her buttocks”, who is telling the truth? Why should the stewardess be believed over the passenger? Isn’t “the customer always right”? Isn’t anyone innocent until proven guilty? How skewed has society become over these minor, insignificant incidences? As my father used to say “there are children starving in Africa”. This whole country needs ” to get a life”.

  30. This is evidence that much of the #MeToo movement is fraudulent. Like children in a station wagon: “Mommy he is looking at me wrong. Mommy he is touching me.” For every legitimate complaint there will be dozens of frivolous. Hope he sues and wins.

  31. I want to see this move forward just so we can see the depositions of neighboring pax. On the surface this sounds like a snowflake FA over reaction. Look at the single power of these employees. With a single statement you can be removed forcibly and banned for an airline permentally. Not many other non-combat occupations where you can do this. If the doesn’t like people (even if he was a bit obnoxious) them the FA chose the wrong career. I’m not saying the FA should be touched regularly but it can be a way of life. I mean try sitting in a coach seat and not touch your middle seat mate for a two hour flight.

  32. The legal comments, especially of @J.C. and @playalaguna fall slightly short. “Battery” is “Any unlawful beating, or other wrongful physical violence or constraint, inflicted on a human being without his consent. 2 Bish. Crim. Law,”. “Assault” is “An unlawful attempt or offer, on the part of one man, with force or violence, to inflict a bodily hurt upon another. An attempt or offer to beat another, without touching him; as if one lifts up his cane or his fist in a threatening manner at another ; or strikes at him, but misses him. 3 Bl. Comm. 120; 3 Steph. Comm. 469. Aggravated assault is one committed with the intention of committing some additional crime; or one attended with circumstances of peculiar outrage or atrocity. Simple assault is one committed with no intention to do any other injury. An assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another. Pen. Code Cal.” [all definitions from Black’s Law Dictionary].

    Both concepts require some sort of harm, either physical or outrageous emotional. And both require some sort of specific intention — there is no “negligent assault”.

    The essential difference between the two is touching — as I learned in law school, if one takes a swing at someone else, and misses, it is assault; but if that person swings and connects, it is battery.

    Yes, one has the right not to be touched, but, incidental or accidental touching is not actionable. We all walk through malls and crowds, and bump into others every day. None of those touches rise to the level of an assault or a battery.

    Lewd or lascivious conduct requires specific intent on the part of the actor. If something sexual was intended – it can be a felony. But incidental or accidental touching without intent is not actionable. And, intoxication can negate specific intent — the actor was too intoxicated to form a wrongful mental state (mens rea)is a sufficient defense to the crime.

    In short, as the common law has said for hundreds of years — “de minimus non curiat lex” — the law does not deal with trifles.

    P.S. Happy New Year to all — may 2018 be filled with good things — love, happiness, health and peace.

  33. Thank you Retired Lawyer. From your definitions, I would conclude that if indeed this person touched her on the back – anywhere above the waist – with no intent to harm – it was not illegal. If he touched her on the butt, I guess in today’s climate, he was wrong. So I guess this comes down to “he said, she said.” Whoever has witnesses to what happened will/should prevail. But unfortunately, just as in the medical profession (my profession) or the police profession, from my observation of friends in the airline industry, flight attendants stick up for each other, even it they did not observe the act or even if they are bending the truth. Sad, but that happens.

    Who do you believe here. I can definitely a rude, rich passenger in First who feels entitled. God knows I’ve seen enough of them in action. But also, I have seen flight attendants who are on a power trip or having a bad day act out in a way that is totally improper, and God help the person whom he or she picks on.

    Gary, keep us posted on the status of this case, please.

  34. i was ‘assaulted’ twice by a United flight attendant in first class this very same day. i told her to let me sleep and yet she insisted on waking me up with a tap to the arm, twice. IM OFFENDED.
    but law enforcement wasnt waiting to escort HER off the plane. I guess there is a double standard.

  35. Although we “weren’t there” and this entire account is hearsay at best, surely as civilized people we know how to get someone’s attention without being so intrusive? If the aircraft call button is not eliciting the desired response, and the ambient noise level obscures a discreet “excuse me” a wave of the hand, or a tap on the arm is preferred to touching someone anywhere on their backside where the identity or their intention is not immediately known. Mr. Big Shot’s opinion that his status as a “first class” customer entitles them to extra leniency with the staff is chauvinistic and egregious. Harassment is in the eye of the recipient and the airline should be congratulated for supporting its employees rather than hiding behind the outdated credo that the “customer is always right.”

  36. before we make conclusions,the airline should do a proper investigation into what really happened,just as the passenger who was banned should hire a lawyer and thru him conduct his own investigation.With all these cell phones,someone must have filmed or at the very least be a witness.If the passenger did try to get her attention in an innocent way,wheter he taped her buttocks or back,it does not merit the him being arrested,again if it was done unintentionaly,the flight attendant could have simply turned around and advised him that she took offence to him touching her.Now,if he put his hand up her skirt,then yes he should be prosecuted for sexual assault.As a man,for my own protection,I don’t even dare compliment a woman let alone look at her for fear of being accused,as from what I see,your guilty wheter your innocent or not.

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