By Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan woman who says she was groped by a male passenger on a Spirit Airlines flight says airline staff asked her to move to another seat after she reported the assault, rather than moving the man.

Tia Jackson, 22, said she was on a flight from Atlanta to Detroit on Tuesday morning when she was groped as she was sleeping. The Westland woman told CNN she was sitting in a middle seat with a friend seated by the window when a man seated in the aisle seat assaulted her just before landing.

Jackson said she jumped up when she felt the man’s hand inside the back of her pants, and she told him to stop. She said she immediately pushed the call button and alerted airline staff, but a flight attendant asked her to move.

“I said, ‘You have to get him away from me,’” Jackson told WJBK-TV. “They said, ‘If it was such a problem or it was bothering you so much, why didn’t you move?’”

Spirit Airlines said it takes Jackson’s allegation seriously and explained that the staff’s rationale in asking her to move was to isolate the man, who would have then not been seated next to anyone.

“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 airline said in a statement.

Jackson said she refused to move because she didn’t want to leave her friend and she felt like she was being punished for what the man had done. She filed a report with the police at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which is located in the suburb of Romulus, after the flight landed.

“He needs to be held responsible. He is a predator,” Jackson said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the man was taken into custody after the flight. The FBI is investigating the alleged assault, said Lisa Gass, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Airport Authority.

FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider said the allegations were reported Tuesday to airport police and then to the federal agency. She said Wednesday that she cannot comment further “because the investigation is ongoing.”

Spirit Airlines said it’s “supporting law enforcement as they investigate.”

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