Steward convicted of molesting stewardess while she attended to passenger

The aisle of a passenger aircraft.
The aisle of a passenger aircraft. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A flight steward was found guilty on Monday (17 January) of molesting a stewardess by slapping her buttock while on board a flight to the Philippines.

The 50-year-old man was the superior of the victim, then 27, and she reported to him while they were deployed to the business class of the flight. The highest-ranking cabin crew member on board the flight had claimed trial to one count of molesting the woman.

Apart from this charge, the man faces one more charge of molesting a 32-year-old woman while on a flight from Singapore to the Netherlands in November 2018. He is also said to have slapped her buttocks over her clothing while in the gallery section of the aircraft. This charge will be dealt with at a later stage.

Slapped her buttock as she attended to passenger

The accused and the victim’s names are under a gag order. At the time, the victim had been with the airline for about three years.

About half an hour before the aircraft landed in Manila in May 2019, the victim attended to a passenger seated in the business class, with the aisle on her left. The passenger had wanted to buy something from the inflight catalogue.

As she was attending to the passenger, with her legs slightly bent and her torso leaning forward, she felt a smack on her right buttock. She said during the trial that she jolted up in response to the contact, which she described as “hard and surprising”.

She then saw the accused walking past on her left. According to her, he uttered, “don’t lah (sic), stand like this” in a “cheeky or a playful manner”. The man then continued on his way towards the front of the cabin.

The victim did not confront the man immediately as she was shocked, and also because she was still attending to the passenger. After the incident, she confided to a leading steward.

After the flight landed in Manila, the victim was engaged in her duties preparing for the turnaround flight when the man apologised to her, saying he had “no intention to do it”. The victim asked the man what other intention he had, but he kept repeating that he had “no intention”. The leading steward later intervened.

The victim sent a WhatApp messages to her ward leader over the incident and added, “It was intentional, it was not a grope or an accidental touch...[i]t was a hard slap (smack)”.

During the turnaround flight, while in the cockpit, in the presence of the flight captain, the first officer and the chief steward, the victim recounted the incident. The man apologised and repeated it was not his intention.

The victim asked the accused to state what he was apologising for and told him, “from the look on your... unwavering face, this is not your first time”, prompting the accused to say, “I swear on my mother...that this is my first time”.

The accused eventually admitted to hitting the victim’s buttock. She lodged a police report two days after the incident.

In his defence, the accused denied touching or slapping the victim’s buttock. He claimed he had only “tapped” the “right side of the pelvic” (region) when he saw that she was leaning against the seat and her buttocks were “protruding” into the aisle.

He argued that the victim’s posture was “provocative” and claimed to have touched her in order to correct her posture and maintain the image of the airline. When apologising for the incident later, he testified that he said he had no ill-intention, and that “if the victim feel (sic) otherwise, I apologise”.

The man will return to court for mitigation and sentencing on 7 March.

For molest, the man may be jailed up to two years, or fined, or caned, or any combination of the penalties.

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