I was verbally abused and assaulted by a passenger behind me on a flight from London to Kuala Lumpur.

5 replies


Member since 24 Mar 2014

Total posts 1

I was verbally abused and assaulted by a passenger behind me on a flight from London to Kuala Lumpur. The crew did nothing to assist me or check on whether I was ok. In making a complaint to the airline, what sort of consideration should I request from them? I've just returned home and am extremely distressed by the entire incident.

wilsoni Banned

wilsoni Banned

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 28 Sep 2011

Total posts 302

It is increasingly unusual for crew on all carriers to become involved in passenger interactions.  Much easier to see and do nothing.  In your case you may have been within your rights to a)request the captain to call police to the aircraft before disembarkation b)call police yourself in the terminal.  Whether you were, or would choose to do so, depends on the severity of the assault (police will rarely act on verbal abuse especially in Malaysia and other Asian countries). Also on your willingness to get delayed for hours if not days by the procedures required - and perhaps face false allegations that you were to blame. You may still be within your rights, if you have or can get the other passenger's name, to bring a civil action for damages - again depending on the severity of the assault and the caveat that you'll likely get nothing for verbal abuse even in an Australian civil court.  Such action will be useless if the other passenger does not reside in Australia. Bringing a "small claim" in an Australian tribunal against the airline may be fruitful - they may settle prior to hearing on a "nuisance" basis or the referee may be sympathetic to your situation. To do this it'll need to be an Australian carrier or you bought your ticket in Australia. BTW: this is all based on "layman" knowledge and isn't meant to be legal advice! Bottom line though - air travel can be a lawless place in a number of ways.


Member since 21 Apr 2012

Total posts 2,058

Lesley, are you distressed by the fact that you were verbally abused and assaulted or that Malaysia Airlines cabin crew choose not to act on your complaint of abuse?

What are the limits of a duty of care that airlines have for passengers? Does choosing not to interfere constitute negligence by the airline?

Would any legal minds out there be able to assist?


Member since 07 Oct 2012

Total posts 771

Without knowing more detail as to what happened, it is difficult to suggest things. Did the crew see the situation? Or was it reported to them? How long into the flight did this occur? How were you assulted? Did you suffer injury? Did you require medical attention? Did someone request that the captain ask for Police to meet the plane? Was a police report made? Do you have independent witnesses?

In relation to legal action here, without some sort of independent substantiation, you would have some difficulty in a court or Tribunal. Additionally, I just don't  know what level of duty of care an airline has to protect customers from other customers? If you were on a train and were assulted, can you sue the train company or is it just a crime? Having said that, there are certain responsibilities on air crew as avaition is a unique beast with international regulations. But it may prove to be legal mess.

In relation to making a complaint, all you can do is write to them, outline the incident and request that they respond. Only you can quantify the damage you've suffered. But you need to make self-determination as to how much effort you want to put in... as it may require a lot of work for minimal result. Noting that Malaysian (and assuming it is Malaysian) may be somewhat pre-occupied atm.


Member since 15 Apr 2011

Total posts 216

I don't want to come across as insensitive, but the crew aren't mind-readers. Did you let them know that there was a problem, or try to do anything about it during the flight itself? 

If I was abused/assaulted to the point of extreme distress then I would be making sure that the crew knew about it and would probably be asking to move seats/have action taken against the passenger in question. I realise that nobody likes to make a scene (especially in an enclosed space with 500 people who will sit there watching and judging you for the following 12 hours!) but realistically there's nothing that you or the airline can do now, days after the fact. 

If you did complain and the crew ignored you then complain and make a fuss (that sort of treatment from the crew is unacceptable) -- I'm not sure how Malaysia handles these sorts of things, but I'd expect a voucher or a stack of point if it were Qantas. If you just sat there and did nothing about it then I suggest you just write it off as a bad experience and move on. 


Malaysia Airlines - Enrich

Member since 12 Oct 2012

Total posts 14

Verbal abuse of other passengers and crew seems to be getting more and more common. So firstly, rest assured that you are not the only one that has encountered this! Alcohol, tiredness, cramped seating and hand luggage disputes can all play a part in people suddenly lashing out at others, often with no notice.

My advice if it happens again : ask to see the Inflight Supervisor and demand that they document your complaint in the voyage report. The IFS is usually trained to get your "statement" away, rather than in front of the other passenger and will most likely talk to you in a galley. They will usually do something for you on board instantly, to calm the situation down and to make the remainder of your flight a better one. You can request the other passenger's name for your record from their passenger manifest. In case of a physical assult, you can also request that the IFS ask to notify the authorities to meet the flight. 

Don't be surprised, if the IFS discreetly approaches the offending party later in the flight - they are mandated to get a version of events from them as well for documentation purposes. Especially if they plan to shower you in Duty Free vouchers to be used on the current or a future flight.

My experience is that writing in to the airline after the fact is far less effective than approaching the IFS inflight. Its a long process for their PR department to interview the crew, in the hope that someone remembers something about your particular flight, where they may or may not have seen something. A standard "We're so sorry letter" is the most likely outcome in that case. Junior crew are usually also reluctant to do much and don't have the same authority (=goodies), so request the IFS to see you at their earliest convenience.

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