A lawsuit was filed by Allison Dvaladze Tuesday against Delta Air Lines in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington. The suit relates to a groping incident that happened in April 2016, on an overnight Delta flight traveling from Seattle to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Dvaladze wishes to draw attention to the phenomenon of mid-flight assaults, as she feels Delta’s response to the incident was “anemic.”

Male passenger gropes sleeping female passenger on Delta flight

Dvaladze was flying Delta Air Lines from Seattle to Amsterdam when it happened.

She claims she was sleeping at the time when the male passenger, seated beside her, grabbed her crotch repeatedly. Dvaladze said she hit the man’s hand and yelled at him to stop groping her, going on to say she worked as hard as she could to get away from the passenger. She eventually left her seat, running to the rear of the plane to tell the Flight Crew what was happening to her. However, a member of the flight crew suggested she let the incident “roll off her back.”

Delta flight crew asked her what they should do

Dvaladze claims the flight crew were trying to be supportive, but it was clear they had no clear guidelines to follow. She said the flight crew wanted her to tell them what they should do.

Flight crew did eventually allow Dvaladze to change seats with another passenger for the balance of the flight. However, shortly before landing, Delta flight attendants told her to return to the original seat. Dvaladze refused to return to that seat and said she was shocked at the flight crew member’s “anemic” response to her problem.

According to the lawsuit, Delta's airline staff did not contact law enforcement relating to the incident and took no steps to identify the male passenger involved.

According to Dvaladze, many airlines don’t wish to be identified as being an airline with a problem. However, she added that the problem was not airline specific, but is an industry-wide problem.

According to a report by the International Business Times, Delta has issued no public statement over the lawsuit filed by Dvaladze against them, nor have their revealed the name of the alleged groper.

Airline 'disheartened' by the incident

However, the Seattle Times asked Delta for comment in December, when a spokesman for the airline wrote that they take sexual assault seriously and that they were “disheartened” by the incident that affected Dvaladze.

Speaking of the incident, Dvaladze, who works as a director of strategy with an international women’s cancer program at the University of Washington, said it was totally and completely shocking that the groping incident happened.

She said she has traveled for years and had never heard or thought about such incidents before. Dvaladze said she was unable to sleep for the rest of the flight and just wanted to get off the plane.

International air travel is 'high risk'

However, according to one of her lawyers, Nate Bingham, international air travel is, in itself, a “high-risk situation” as it involves people having to sleep next to strangers for several hours. Bingham said that after Dvaladze did some research, she found out sexual harassment is a “disturbingly pervasive issue on commercial flights. He added that airlines have a responsibility as common carriers to protect their passengers.