Southwest Airlines says it is “deeply disturbed” by allegations from a female passenger who claims that a male passenger masturbated next to her on a flight.
Elly Shariat, who runs a PR agency, was flying from Las Vegas to Philadelphia on Tuesday when she says one of her seatmates exposed himself as the passenger from hell. Her tweets about the situation subsequently went viral.
“We are deeply disturbed by the behavior described by Ms. Shariat, and we have contacted her to address her concerns and offer our apologies,” Southwest said in a statement to HuffPost. “Our internal reports indicate that the Crew did not witness this incident during the flight — and it was not until the plane landed that they were made aware of the situation. Our Crew then apologized to Ms. Shariat and assured her that they were not previously aware of the situation. This type of behavior on a flight would never be tolerated by any of our Employees.”
A spokesperson for Philadelphia International Airport confirmed for HuffPost that Shariat filed a police report about the alleged incident and that the FBI is now handling the case.
Shariat previously tweeted at Southwest during her flight about what she said was happening.
“I’ve spent this entire flight sitting next to a guy who has his iPad open on the tray table, watching porn, WITHOUT using headphones,” she wrote.
In subsequent tweets, she said she could clearly see the man’s penis and that there was “no way” staffers hadn’t witnessed what was going on.
The airline’s social media team responded within minutes, telling Shariat to reach out to a member of the flight crew.
She didn’t think that was a good idea.
The airline’s social media team insisted the best way to handle the situation was with the flight crew.
Shariat agreed to heed the team’s suggestion to speak to the crew after the plane landed but criticized the recommendation.
She alleged in another tweet that as the man was leaving the plane, “he looked at me, told me he hoped I enjoyed the show, patted my head, and then left.”
Shariat did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost. But she told TMZ that when she did finally report the man to the flight crew, a supervisor only offered a dinner voucher.
Shariat also tweeted out a screenshot of what she said was the airline’s response to her report. The response included generalities like “our goal is to provide a safe, comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere” and “I regret your experience was less than pleasant.”
This week Southwest had another public relations nightmare after a woman said an airline employee asked her to “prove” that her biracial son was hers.