A Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines flight was suddenly diverted Tuesday after a disruptive passenger wanted to “play footsie” with a woman and started shouting when airline officials asked him to leave her alone, KRQE reported.
Now Justin Riley Brafford faces a simple assault charge in Albuquerque, N.M., according to the station.
Authorities said Brafford sat next to a woman, touched her leg and then began “playing footsies” with her during the flight, according to the Dallas Morning News. She tried to ignore him and told him to stop, but he tugged at her clothing and began asking her questions, including whether she was going to be staying alone at a hotel, according to the paper.
When she told him she didn’t want to go out with him, officials say he whispered “don’t [expletive] with me” into her ear, and she asked to move seats, the Dallas Morning News reported.
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A flight attendant moved the woman, but Brafford followed her over to her new seat, causing her to cry, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The flight attendant confronted Brafford, who officials said went from “zero to sixty in nanoseconds” and began screaming and yelling, prompting the pilot to divert the flight, the paper reported.
Brafford told officials he thought the woman had been flirting with him and that they’d had a connection when he touched her leg, according to the paper.
The FBI took Brafford into custody in Albuquerque without incident, according to CBS-DFW.
“The safety and comfort of everyone on board every operating aircraft is our highest concern,” the airline said in a statement to the Dallas Morning News.
Other flights have been diverted or disrupted several times over the last year. A midair brawl erupted on a Miami-bound flight in May after a man became enraged he was not given more beer, the Miami Herald reported. In July, a Spirit Airlines flight was diverted over a stench of “dirty socks” in the cabin, CNBC reported, and another Southwest flight was diverted in May after a passenger lit up a joint in the bathroom, according to CBS Los Angeles.