Customers of Ryanair are not happy with how the airline handled a racist passenger on a flight from Barcelona to Standsted.
A video has gone viral of the incident and features a man threatening a 77-year-old black woman with arthritis named Mrs. Gayle, who didn’t move fast enough from her seat to allow the man get to his window seat. HuffPost UK refers to the woman as Mrs. Gayle and not her full name to protect her identity.
David Lawrence, a U.K. resident, filmed the incident last Thursday.
Lawrence told BBC Radio 5 Live how the situation began: “Everything was calm, we were getting ready to take off. And then a man came on board and arrived at his seat, then spoke very harshly to a woman sitting in the aisle seat.”
“That was what got my attention as it was very loud and very aggressive. He started to shout at the woman, saying ‘get out of the way,’ ‘move your feet,’ ‘you shouldn’t be sitting here.'”
Mrs. Gayle’s daughter arrived and an argument ensued, which is when a flight attendant appeared to defuse the situation. This is when Lawrence’s video appears to begin.
Mrs. Gayle’s daughter tries to explain to the man that her mother has arthritis which hinders her ability to move quickly.
The racist man shouts: “I don’t care whether she’s f****** disabled or not—if I tell her to get out, she gets out.”
“He pushed past the woman and went to his seat,” Lawrence said, adding that the rest of the video features the “most disgusting exchange of racial slurs and foul language”.
At one point, viewers can hear the man shout at Mrs. Gayle who spoke in a Jamaican accent, “Don’t talk to me in a foreign language, you stupid ugly cow.”
The black woman at one point tells the man, “You smell. You need a wash.”
Later, the man threatens Mrs. Gayle with, “If you don’t go to another seat, I’ll push you to another seat.”
When one passenger tries to intervene and stop the argument, the unruly man says, “I will carry on as far as I can with this ugly black bastard.”
Even though a few passengers call for the man to be removed from the flight, flight attendants let him stay, only telling the man he is being “super rude” and asking him to calm down. Most passengers remain silent in the face of his racist comments.
Since the video aired, Ryanair has felt a lot of kickback on social media. They reported to BBC News that “it will not tolerate unruly behavior like this” and has referred the incident to Essex Police.
The woman was allowed to move seats eventually, but her daughter told HuffPost UK: “I know that if I was behaving like he was, or any other black person for that matter, police would have been called and we would have been kicked off the flight.”
Mrs. Gayle’s daughter said that the flight attendants denied hearing any racist slurs during the argument and told the two to make a complaint with customer service on Monday.
According to Twitter both politicians and customers are not happy with Ryanair, with some calling for a boycott.
He should have been removed from the flight and handed over to the police. We assume the aircraft was in the UK. If it was, he definitely committed criminal offences. I fully expect @Ryanair to confirm the situation if In fact it was their flight? https://t.co/ORfww9ZiPg
Just watched the shocking footage on a @Ryanair aircraft, utterly disgusting. Racist male passenger should have been put off flight before it departed. Flight attendant incapable of responding appropriately. However well done to passenger with black t-shirt that intervened #hero
Yup. Going with EasyJet, cheers
The woman’s daughter told HuffPost UK: “Mum’s really feeling upset and very stressed about this situation, on top of the grief 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.”
“The underlying reason behind the man’s abusive behavior comes down to the fact that my mum is a black woman and he didn’t want her sitting next to him; he says it in the video.”
Mrs. Gayle moved to the UK from Jamaica in the 1960s and was on vacation with her daughter to mark the first anniversary of her husband’s death. The two say they will never fly with Ryanair again.
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