Last Friday, a truly terrible incident occurred on a Ryanair plane while it was parked at the stand in Barcelona, Spain. Of course, Ryanair wasn’t remotely responsible for what was said between two passengers on that flight but Europe’s largest low-cost carrier has been roundly criticised over its handling of the disgusting racist incident. Now, nearly a week after the episode unfolded, Ryanair has finally issued a public apology.
A video of the incident captured by a fellow passenger, showed a 77-year old female pensioner of Jamaican descent being threatened by a white male passenger who was sat adjacent to her on the plane. The man called the victim a “fucking ugly cow” and an “ugly black bastard” amongst other racial slurs and threats.
But rather than being thrown off the plane and being met by law enforcement, the man was allowed to remain on the flight to London Stansted. Instead, the victim – who had recently lost her longtime husband – was forced to move seats by a member of cabin crew tasked with defusing the situation.
At the time, cabin crew insiders suggested an on time departure was the most pressing priority of Ryanair’s cabin and flight crew – rather than dealing with the disruptive passenger correctly. Once the video of the incident was uploaded on Twitter, it quickly went viral and was picked up by news organisations around the world.
In a statement, Ryanair however, says it “wishes to clarify the following facts, to prevent any further inaccurate and/or unfounded media reportage”.
The airline says the Spanish-based cabin crew on this flight weren’t aware of the racial slurs and threats that had been made and only thought an “argument” had taken place during the boarding process.
Ryanair hasn’t said why the cabin crew didn’t make any attempt to investigate the cause of the argument in more detail but does say that the video of the incident was only shown to cabin crew once the plane landed in Stansted. The airline also says they became aware of the video being posted online the next day.
They claim they “immediately” reported the matter to police – although, clearly Ryanair has a different interpretation of “immediately” to most people as they didn’t actually contact police until the next day.
“As the cabin crew believed they were dealing with an argument between two passengers, they followed company procedures, to defuse the argument, and separate the passengers by offering to move one to alternative seating,” the statement continues.
This racist white man refused to sit next to an elderly black woman on a Ryanair flight.
He called her an "ugly black bastard" & threatened to push her to another seat if she didn't move to another seat.
Ryanair – DOES NOTHING!!!
UK twitter identify HIM!!!
RETWEET THIS! pic.twitter.com/70XNsvTZBg
— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) October 20, 2018
“After moving the female passenger, both passengers were asked if they were “okay”, and both confirmed that they were. As far as the cabin crew were concerned, that was the end of the matter.”
Ryanair has confirmed that no attempt was made to inform the Captain or airport security about the incident. Nor was any thought given to offloading the disruptive passenger.
However, the airline says it immediately contacted the victim by email to “sincerely” apologise for what happened and claims it does not tolerate disruptive or abusive behaviour.
“We again extend our very sincere apologies to this passenger for the regrettable, and unacceptable remarks that were made to her by an adjacent passenger,” explains Ryanair’s Robin Kiely.
“We believe that by reporting this matter immediately to the Essex Police and by apologising in writing to this customer early on Sunday morning, Ryanair treated it with the urgency and seriousness it warranted,” he continued.
Nonetheless, critics have called on Ryanair to review its cabin crew training and its procedures for dealing with conflicts onboard it aircraft – two concerns that Ryanair has so far failed to address.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.