Google software engineer Faraaz Sareshwala has alleged that his wife was verbally and physically assaulted on a recent Southwest flight by a fellow passenger, for no reason other than being “Indian and a woman.”
In a series of some two dozen tweets, he narrated the kerfuffle that took place in the air.
On the morning of Sept. 24, Saarah Sareshwala was flying from Orlando to Phoenix on Flight 1630. She had been resting her head on the tray table and was attempting to take a nap, when the passenger seated in front of her “violently pushed his seat back in an attempt to hurt her,” wrote Faraaz Sareshwala. He also posted a photo of the man in the seat in front of his wife.
Confronting The Attacker
Thinking that she had bumped her head against his seat while she was asleep, “she went to the bathroom to check her injuries,” he wrote of his wife. Occupying the two seats in the same row next to her were a mother and a daughter, who saw the disturbance take place, he added.
While Saarah was in the lavatory, out in the cabin, her seatmates confronted the attacker. He responded by making a “motion with his hands” and facetiously said, “f*** off, f*** off,” according to Sareshwala’s tweet. The attacker told the daughter to “stay in [her] f***ing lane, bitch.” Of Saarah, he said, “the f***ing bitch got what was coming for her.”
Dismissive Flight Crew
Sareshwala wrote that the mother and the daughter also overheard the man and his wife discussing reclining his seat again, so that “Saarah’s drink would spill on her.” When she returned from the bathroom, “her seatmates explained their interaction with the man” and asked his wife to tell the crew.
When she did tell them, Sareshwala wrote that “all the crew initially offered was to switch seats.” His wife chose not to change seats because she felt safer with the mother and the daughter who had “witnessed the ordeal.” He reprimanded the airline, though, for not “reprimand[ing] for the aggressor.”
He added that throughout the rest of the flight, the man continued to spew “racial slurs” and “misogynistic venom” at his wife. “He kept pushing his seatback in an attempt to hurt [his wife.]”
When the flight landed in Phoenix, the local police took statements from everyone involved, but determined that it was out of their jurisdiction as the incident had taken over the Gulf of Mexico, which is international airspace. They turned over the matter to the F.B.I.
The flight time is, typically, about four and a half hours.
Sareshwala responded to a direct message on Twitter sent by India Currents. “Hi there! Thanks for reaching out and for your kind words,” he wrote. “They really mean a lot. We’re not giving interviews at the moment but I’ll continue to post updates on my Twitter feed as they are available.”
“It’s all so ironic. Saarah had just finished up a week at Grace Hopper Conference, a tech event that also discusses women’s empowerment and eliminating violence against women. As she boards her flight, she’s immediately reminded that she’s back in reality,” he tweeted.
A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines told India Currents in a statement: “After being made aware of a situation, the crew requested law enforcement meet the aircraft upon arrival.”
“Southwest Airlines maintains zero-tolerance for any type of alleged harassment or assault on our customers or employees,” wrote the spokesperson.
On Sept. 27, Phoenix Police officials posted a statement on their verified Twitter page, confirming that officers responded to a call regarding an in-flight assault on the night of Sept. 24.
“A Phoenix Police officer interviewed the female victim, a witness and the male suspect at the terminal gate and wrote a comprehensive report on the incident,” read a portion of the statement.
“This report was handed over to our partners at the Federal Bureau of Investigation because our agency does not have the authority to recommend charges or make arrests on in-flight incidents that happen while a plane is in the air.”
On Sept. 28, Sareshwala tweeted that the F.B.I. had contacted the couple and had begun an investigation.
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