A San Diego man has been banned from flying on Alaska Airlines after an allegation that he harassed a flight attendant — an accusation he said is unfounded and is "reverse discrimination against men."
Mike Timon, 53, said he is accused of touching the flight attendant's buttocks while in first-class during an evening flight from Portland, Ore., to San Diego on Dec. 26. Timon denies the claim, and said he touched the woman "politely" on her back — not her buttocks — to get her attention and order a drink.
Instead of a drink, Timon said he was accused of misbehavior and met by police at the end of the flight. Timon reached out to the San Diego Union-Tribune the following day.
"For me to be accused of this, and for me to be escorted off the plane by police? This is it. I'm blowing up... It's unnecessary. It's discrimination toward me," Timon said.
The incident comes amid a national reckoning over sexual harassment, as claims of assault or misconduct have brought down powerful men in politics, media and entertainment, and sparked the #MeToo movement in which women disclose their own experiences.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Ann Johnson declined to discuss specifics of the Dec. 26 incident, citing an open investigation. But she did say in a statement issued Thursday that Alaska "will not be providing further transport to the offending passenger," pending the investigation outcome.
"Alaska Airlines will not tolerate any type of sexual misconduct that creates an unsafe environment for our guests and crew members and we are fully committed to do our part to address this serious issue," she said.
Johnson said Alaska is working to develop and update policies and training "to ensure that crew members have the tools they need to prevent, identify and address sexual harassment on board, and will have more to say about what that looks like later this winter."
Alaska has been in the news following incidents of alleged harassment. In fall 2016, a man was removed from an Alaska flight after he catcalled a flight attendant demonstrating how to put on a safety vest. As he was taken from the plane, he protested that he "didn't do anything wrong."
A passenger detailed the incident on her Facebook page, and wrote: "It was everything we could do to keep from applauding as he was led away."
And last month, former Facebook executive Randi Zuckerberg made headlines after she posted on Facebook a description of sexual harassment against her by a passenger on an Alaska fight, and said flight attendants offered to move her — not the alleged harasser. She later updated it to thank Alaska executives for taking her complaints seriously.
In early December, Sara Nelsen, president of the Assn. of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 42,000 flight attendants from 19 airlines, wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post in which she said flight attendants, already long objectified, remain "ongoing victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault."
"Even today, we are called pet names, patted on the rear when a passenger wants our attention, cornered in the back galley and asked about our 'hottest' layover, and subjected to incidents not fit for print," she wrote.
On its website, the union applauded recent efforts from Alaska (and also United Airlines) "to help end sexual harassment."
The Harbor Police Department confirmed that its officers took statements from Timon and others. No arrests were made, and no one requested that charges be filed.
The Union-Tribune was unable to verify exactly what the flight attendant said Timon did to her, or to verify his side of the story. The paper was also unable to find social media postings from other passengers describing the incident.
Timon, who said he is a frequent first-class flier, said that after he touched the flight attendant and requested a drink, none came.
He said he later pressed his call button, and a male flight attendant came by and told him he'd had been cut off from alcohol, that he'd assaulted the flight attendant and that police would be waiting for him in San Diego.
The longtime owner of a company that bought and sold medical equipment said he'd had one drink, was not unruly and was "100% sober" at the time of the encounter.
"What about us guys?" Timon said. "I can't tap a flight attendant on her back to politely ask for something, yet I get accused of something? It's out of control and I am pissed."
Timon — who said he was embarrassed in front of other passengers — said he has contacted an attorney to consider bringing legal action. That attorney did not respond to a request for comment this week.
Figueroa writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.