A Texas man was arrested Sunday night for allegedly groping a female passenger sitting next to him on a Southwest Airlines flight to Nashville, according to court documents.
The female passenger told police that she had a brief conversation with Alfredo Vela IV, whom she did not know, before falling asleep during the flight from Houston. She later awoke to find Vela rubbing her back with his hand and told police Vela also touched her inner thigh, her breast and attempted to put his hand up her shirt.
The woman told police that she “froze in fear” during the event and alerted the flight crew soon after.
Vela, a Houston resident, was arrested at the airport after the plane landed around 9:30 p.m. and faces a charge of sexual battery. The 30-year-old Vela was booked into Davidson County Jail and posted a $5,000 bond Monday morning, according to The Tennessean.
Southwest Airlines said its crew members requested law enforcement meet the plane at the gate upon landing after receiving the report of misconduct.
“Southwest crews are trained to take care of a wide range of sensitive customer issues, and we have zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior onboard our aircraft,” the Dallas-based carrier said in a statement. “If our crews are made aware of a harmful situation–whether witnessed first-hand or reported by someone else–our flight attendants are responsible for notifying the pilots who will request the appropriate authorities meet the aircraft on the ground.”
The case is the latest incident of alleged sexual assault onboard a commercial aircraft. Lawmakers, consumer advocates and airline employee unions have spent the last two years calling more attention to the issue of unwanted touching, groping or worse on airplanes, a problem many fear is underreported.
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