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Southwest Airlines passenger accused of ‘jamming seatback into woman’s head’ on flight

The Independent logo The Independent 27/09/2022 Eleanor Sly
GettyImages-80504185.jpg © Getty Images GettyImages-80504185.jpg

A woman travelling on Southwest Airlines says that she was left with an injured head when someone rammed their seat back into her head.

Saarah Sareshwala - a software engineer - was flying from Orlando, Florida to Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday (24 September), when the passenger seated in front of her allegedly slammed his seatback into her head whilst she was asleep against it.

Ms Sareshwala’s husband, Faraaz Sareshwala, took to social media to document the incident.

He wrote on Twitter, under an image of the man: “This morning, my wife left Orlando, Florida aboard @SouthwestAir flight 1630 (MCO to PHX).

“She sat behind this man. She had been attending the Grace Hopper Conference all week and was resting her head on her tray table, trying to sleep a bit. Let me tell you what happened.

“This man violently pushed his seat back in an attempt to hurt @saarahfaraaz while her head was there. After coming to, she initially thought it was an accident; someone falling down in their own seat after returning from the bathroom or something.”

Mr Sareshwala said that a mother and daughter who were seated next to his wife had seen the event in full and “asked for ice from the crew for Saarah and confronted the man.”

He added that, when confronted by the pair of women seated nearby, the man responded “by making the blah blah motion”. He says the man also told them to “f**k off” repeatedly, before threatening to spill a drink on Ms Sareshwala.

“Throughout the rest of the flight, this man kept spewing racial slurs and misogynistic venom at Saarah. He kept pushing his seat back in an attempt to hurt Saarah,” said Mr Sareshwala.

The fellow passengers alerted the flight attendants to what was going on and they called the police, who met the aircraft on arrival in Phoenix and took statements.

Mr Sareshwala said that, since the event occurred in international waters, police said they would pass the case on to the FBI and that “if the FBI thinks there is enough evidence to press charges they will reach back out.”

A Southwest Airlines spokesperson said: “After being made aware of a situation on a Southwest flight Saturday, 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.”

Meanwhile, on another flight from Mexico to California, an unruly passenger was filmed punching a flight attendant in the back of the head.

The footage showed a man running toward the attendant and assaulting him before stepping back.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there have been 1,973 reports of unruly passengers in 2022 as of 20 September.

There was a sharp rise in the number of incidents leading to investigations between 2020 and 2021.

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