A woman who tweeted about watching out for “creeps” on flights has struck a chord with female travellers everywhere.
Newspaper bureau chief Joanna Chiu’s thread about “airplane creeps” quickly went viral after she shared a story about a teenage girl being targeted by a male passenger during a recent flight.
“I’m on a plane from a late-evening stopover and was very tired and had a row to myself to sleep but couldn’t avoid noticing what was going on in the row behind me,” she said.
“A man appearing in his late thirties was obviously delighted to be seated next to a teenager separated from the rest of her family.
“He started off by asking about her career plans and laughed when she said she wanted to be CEO and kept giving her ridiculous advice.”
Thread about airplane creeps: I’m on a plane from a late-evening stopover from and was very tired and had a row to myself to sleep but couldn’t avoid noticing what was going on in the row behind me.— Joanna Chiu 趙淇欣 (@joannachiu)March 25, 2019
Chiu said the girl was friendly, which the man seemed to take as a cue to “get very familiar”. He allegedly started teasing the young woman and asked her out for dinner multiple times, which she ignored.
“At this point I had to stay awake in case anything went further than that,” said Chiu.
“It did, and as soon as he asked for a ‘dirty’ photo while leaning close to her I turned around and rage-whispered exactly what I thought of that and he didn’t say anything back and went off to use the washroom.”
According to Chiu, another woman in the row behind had also been monitoring the situation and told the girl she was within her rights to change seats.
Chiu went and informed a flight attendant of the situation, and when the man returned to his seat the head flight attendant asked him to move.
“He resisted then started swearing at me and asked to talk to the boss and the head flight attendant said, ‘I’m the boss, this is really serious and we could land the plane,’” added Chiu.
The man agreed to change seats, a report was written up and the situation was handled “well” according to Chiu.
However, she highlighted the fact that only female passengers seemed to notice what had been going on.
“Maybe fellow women are more likely to pick up on warning signs early on in the conversation because we used to be teenage girls too?” she said.
Chiu, who works for The Star Vancouver and Toronto Star newspapers, then shared her own memories of being pursued while travelling as a young girl, one of which culminated in an older man kissing her without her consent.
She emphasised the need for vigilance: “All adults need to be on guard and know there are things we can do to intervene even when a crime hadn’t technically been committed yet.
“Men need to figure out how to ‘spot creeps’ in their vicinity as well and men can help too to prevent harassment or assault.”
She added: “I’m sure the young woman he targeted will be CEO someday or some other position of influence. She was in the middle of studying when he started harassing her.”
The thread has quickly gone viral, garnering more than 110,000 likes, 54,000 retweets and 1,000 replies since 25 March.