Airline Criticized for Response to Moms Cyberflashed on Flight

Two moms were cyberflashed by a fellow passenger on a British Airways plane while traveling with their six-year-old daughter, and they’re not happy with the airline’s response.

Kate O’Sullivan, 37, and Ysolda Teague, 33, boarded their flight with their six-year-old daughter, Lily, on November 5th at London Heathrow bound for Edinburgh.

While they were helping their daughter put her seatbelt on, Teague received an AirDrop notification on her phone of five unsolicited photographs of male genitals.

Teague declined the AirDrop notification and informed cabin staff of the cyberflash.

“The staff were completely flummoxed, all getting their phones to see if they too had [received] anything,” O’Sullivan told HuffPost UK

O’Sullivan said that one employee offered to call airport security, and another asked if they wanted to tell the flight captain. The flight crew suggested that the moms accept the images and hand their phone to ground security and see if the photographs could be traced, but in doing so, the family would have to deboard the flight and lose their seats.

The employees also insinuated that in taking certain actions, the family would be responsible for delaying the flight further, which had already been delayed on the tarmac by 30 minutes.

1/2 Happy Monday everyone. This lunchtime @HuffPostUK is running the next in my #cyberflashing investigations. I spoke to @kateo_sullivan and @ysolda who were sent dick pics while on a British Airways flight last week.

“We weren’t expecting them [British Airways] to fix the problem, said O’Sullivan, a writer and former mental-health worker. “But we were concerned about the staff response, the staff themselves said to us they felt completely unprepared to deal with the situation.”

While talking with the employees, Teague tweeted British Airways about their cyber harassment policy.

Hi @British_Airways do you have a policy for staff for what to do when an unknown passenger is harassing passengers by sending dick pics via airdrop? They’re very sympathetic, but flummoxed. Yeah… I shouldn’t leave airdrop on, but that’s not the point.

They responded to Teague, but insinuated it was Teague’s fault for not having her phone on airplane mode.

We don’t have a policy for this, Ysolda. Once passengers have boarded, their mobile phones should be on airplane mode. This would prevent photos being sent or received via airdrop. 1/2

Teague called out British Airways for victim blaming and not having a policy in place to help their staff when such a situation arises.

You should create one. And talk to the staff on my flight (BA 1440) who were much, much better than you at not blaming the victim.

The only follow-up tweet Teague received was one in which British Airways said: “However, we don’t underestimate how uncomfortable this must have made you feel.”

The moms eventually decided to stay on the plane but did not feel comfortable moving around the cabin or taking their daughter to the restroom, fully aware that the harasser was on the plane with them. They even waited last to disembark once they arrived in Edinburgh.

“You’ve got someone who is harassing women on the plane. I knew, based on my former mental health training, that sex offenders escalate [behaviour]. You’ve got someone here who is doing this, it could escalate,” said O’Sullivan.

The couple told Huffpost UK that British Airways’ response was unacceptable. They also mentioned that flight attendants don’t usually tell them to turn their phones off as soon as they enter the aircraft.

A spokesperson for British Airways, told HuffPost UK: “We don’t underestimate how uncomfortable this incident must have made our customer feel, and we’re pleased that our crew were able to offer their support on board.”

“We do not tolerate this type of behaviour and will always support customers if they choose to involve the police. Our intention was to offer some helpful advice, however we apologise for any offence caused to our customer.”

“As we discussed, sadly this is something that could happen anywhere, not just on board an aircraft. But our crew will always support customers if they choose to involve the police.”

Twitter users called out British Airways for their response. One noted that some flights have Wi-Fi and travelers can use their phone after landing, two instances where a cyberflashing policy would be needed. Another wrote: “That’s an awful response. Not having a policy at the moment is one thing; not acknowledging that a policy is needed is something else.”

British Airways has been at the center of bad news in the past few months from the data breach of their customers’ information to 200 passengers stranded for two days across two airports.

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