Bay Area man accuses Southwest passenger of assaulting his wife and spewing racial slurs

A Bay Area man alleges that a Southwest Airlines passenger launched a physical and verbal assault against his wife on board a Phoenix-bound flight.

Faraaz Sareshwala, a Google software engineer and instructor at UC Berkeley Extension, detailed in a series of tweets the encounter between his wife and the other passenger.

Sareshwala said his wife Saarah, who is Indian and also a software engineer, was returning from a conference on women in tech. He said she was on Southwest flight 1630 from Orlando to Phoenix Saturday morning when the ordeal unfolded.

He said his wife was resting her head on a tray table in front of her when her sleep was interrupted by a seemingly disgruntled passenger.

"This man violently pushed his seat back in an attempt to hurt @saarahfaraaz while her head was there," Faraaz Sareshwala said on Twitter.

Sareshwala said his wife initially thought it was an accident or that she had bumped the man's chair while sleeping. Nevertheless, she went to the bathroom to check if she had any injuries.

While in the restroom, Saarah's seatmates, a mother and daughter, tried to confront the man.

Sareshwala said the man allegedly told the duo to "f--k off" and that "the f-----g bitch got what was coming for her." Sareshwala also alleges that the man told a woman sitting next to him that he would continue with his behavior in an attempt to spill Saarah's drink.

Sareshwala wrote that flight attendants did very little to interfere in the matter, only offering to change Saarah's seat and not once confronting the alleged perpetrator.

He said it was only after one of Saarah's seatmates told a flight attendant that an assault had occurred did they offer to call police.

Even then, Sareshwala wrote that the passenger continued to antagonize his wife for the duration of the flight.

"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," he said in a tweet.

In a statement to KTVU, the airline said, "After being made aware of a situation on a Southwest flight on 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."

Gary Leff, author of a travel blog called "View From the Wing," said the incident that occurred on Southwest flight 1630 was quite rare. 

"We have heard of lots of assaults whether it is passengers against each other or passengers against crew. They are statistically rare," said Leff. "That one is unusual. It has never that, I can think of, been the case that a setback has been used to assault another passenger."

Leff said tightly-packed planes are unique environments.

"People who ordinarily would not come into contact with each other and bringing all of the baggage, all of the starting assumptions, all of the emotional challenges, whatever bad day they are having, but also all of the personalities that would not otherwise mix," Leff said.

After the plane was met by police after it landed in Phoenix, according to the woman's husband. 

Authorities took statements from all involved and referred the matter to the FBI because the incident occurred over the Gulf of Mexico, which is international airspace.

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.