Ryanair has faced criticism after a video posted online apparently showed the airline’s crew failing to take action to remove a passenger who launched a racist tirade against a fellow traveller.
- Ryanair said it had referred the matter to police
- A flight attendant eventually found another seat for the woman
- Footage of the incident has been viewed at least 3.6 million times
The video, uploaded to social media by Briton David Lawrence, showed a man hurling racist insults at an elderly black woman sitting in the same row and demanding she move seats onboard a flight from Barcelona to London late last week.
The Huffington Post identified the woman as a 77-year-old pensioner from East London called “Mrs Gayle” who was travelling home with her daughter after a holiday to mark the anniversary of her husband’s death.
It was not clear what prompted the quarrel.
‘I’ll push you to another seat’
“She’s disabled, don’t you dare shout at her,” one woman can be heard saying at the start of the footage, when the incident was already underway.
“She’s an elderly woman.”
The man refused to “be told what to do”, and continued hurling vulgar insults at Mrs Gayle.
“Don’t talk to me in a foreign language, you stupid ugly cow,” he shouted.
A flight attendant told the man he needed to calm down, and asked Mrs Gayle if she wanted to move to another seat.
“I tell you this, if you don’t go to another seat I’ll push you to another seat,” the man next to her immediately shot back.
Throughout the interaction, other passengers could be heard defending Mrs Gayle.
At one point a man in the row behind them leaned over the seat and repeatedly told the abuser to stop. Another man called for the Mrs Gayle’s agitated seatmate to be taken off the plane.
Mrs Gayle eventually moved to a seat next to her daughter, and the man told a flight attendant “I’m alright now”.
Mr Lawrence’s video has since garnered more than 3.6 million views.
‘I don’t know how to go forward’
Mrs Gayle’s daughter told the Huffington Post her mother had “been feeling really down and depressed, so I thought the trip would raise her spirits”.
“Mum’s really feeling upset and very stressed about this situation, on top of the grief that she’s already experiencing. As for me, I’m upset about the whole thing too — the fact that the passenger wasn’t taken off the plane and how the situation was dealt with.
“I don’t know how to go forward or where to take this. I’m not even sure what I want done to resolve the situation, beyond an open apology to my mother for the way that the things were handled.”
The budget airline tweeted Sunday that it had seen the footage and reported the incident to police.
It did not provide further comment.
@Ryanair:Statement: We are aware of this video and have reported this matter to Essex Police
Essex Police said it was working closely with Ryanair and Spanish authorities as part of the investigation, and said it took prejudice-based crime seriously, the BBC reported.
Mr Lawrence told the BBC he was shocked the airline allowed “something like this to go unchecked”.
British politician Karl Turner said on Twitter that Ryanair had “failed spectacularly”.
There have been more than 3,500 replies to Ryanair’s tweeted statement, many of which criticise the airline’s handling of the incident.