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EMU student blasts Spirit after complaint about man's hand 'in my pants'

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A Michigan woman alleges that a man touched her inappropriately on a Spirit Airlines flight bound for Detroit Metro Airport this week and workers failed to properly address the incident.

Tia Jackson was seated between her friend and a male passenger while heading back from Atlanta early Tuesday. The 22-year-old said she was dozing as the plane neared the airport but woke up to find the passenger rubbing her thigh and his hand "basically in my pants."

Jackson said she had "a few choice words" with the man, told him to get away, then immediately pressed the emergency button for help.

The Eastern Michigan University student alleges multiple flight attendants did not separate the man as she requested and allowed him to leave when the plane landed. No one followed up when she stayed behind, and the pilot told her to go to the airport to reach police, Jackson said.

"They showed no type of common courtesy," the Westland resident said. "I feel like they are still not taking me seriously."

Spirit says "we take this claim seriously" and notes a team member contacted police.

Reached Wednesday, Spirit Airlines representatives said in a statement that flight attendants learned of the incident 18 minutes before landing in Romulus and one directed Jackson to another seat.

"The cabin crew wanted to move her, as opposed to him, because the move would have left him with an empty seat on one side and an aisle on the other," the statement read.  "By the time the guest declined to move, landing was imminent and everyone had to be seated as required by federal regulation. Law enforcement began its investigation immediately after the flight arrived."

Jackson rejects Spirit's claim and said she did not want to be separated from her friend, who was sitting in the same row.

Once at the airport, Jackson said a Spirit staffer contacted airport police.

The incident also has been reported to the FBI, spokeswoman Mara Schneider told The Detroit News.

"Because the investigation is ongoing, I am unable to provide any additional information," she said in an email.

Jackson said she received a partial refund from Spirit, but the airline has yet to apologize.

In its statement, the airline said: "We take this claim seriously and are in direct contact with the guest."

The experience prompted her to create a Change.org petition calling for a boycott.

"SPIRIT NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!" the post read. "WOMEN ARE NOT SAFE FLYING SPIRIT."