MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The FBI Memphis Field Office is warning travelers about a possible increase in sexual assaults on airplanes.

The Memphis field office, which covers West and Middle Tennessee, sent a release on the crime Thursday morning.

“As summer is upon us and more people are flying, the FBI expects to see an increase in reported sexual assaults,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas Korneski of the FBI Memphis Field Office. “Sexual assault aboard aircraft is a federal felony. Anyone who believes they have been sexually assaulted is encouraged to alert a member of the flight crew.” 

The FBI says in-flight assaults usually happen on longer flights in dark cabins, and that the victims are usually in the middle or window seats. The victims are usually sleeping and covered in blankets or jackets, and often report waking up to find someone’s hands inside their clothing or underwear.

The FBI has listed some precautions travelers can take to help protect themselves:

  • Recognize that mixing alcohol with sleeping pills or other medication on an overnight flight increases your risk.  
  • If your seatmate is a stranger, no matter how polite he or she may seem, keep the armrest between you down. 
  • If you are arranging for a child to fly unaccompanied, try to reserve an aisle seat so flight attendants can keep a closer watch on them. Minors are known targets.  
  • If an incident happens, report it immediately to the flight crew and ask that they record the attacker’s identity and report the incident. They can alert law enforcement, if necessary.  

The FBI also says offenders will often “test” their victims by pretending to brush against them to see how they react or if they wake up. The FBI suggests passengers establish boundaries and consider asking to be moved to another seat. 

You can reach the FBI Memphis Field Office 24 hours a day at 901-747-4300. You can also submit a tip online at