Passengers onboard an easyJet flight from London Gatwick to Malaga last Thursday staged a “mutiny” after cabin crew tried to eject two customers who were sat in an emergency exit row “huffed” when they were told to put their shoes back on for takeoff.
Cabin crew called armed police to remove the passengers from the jet but other customers demanded the two young men remain on the flight. In the end, the men were allowed to stay onboard while the cabin crew were instead offloaded and replaced with a new crew.
Luke Gayle, 28, who recorded the incident believes the fact that the two men were black may have played a part in the cabin crew’s decision to have the plane return to the gate and call armed police to meet the plane.
“I am a racial justice ambassador and I kind of know how unconscious racial bias works,” Luke told the Daily Mail. “Obviously it’s very difficult in these situations to say it was a racial issue, it’s difficult to prove that, however, was there some kind of unconscious bias there?”
“Because it seems so dramatic to call the police and have a plane with 160-odd passengers turn around and be delayed for someone huffing at them. I mean surely as cabin crew you are trained on how to deal with those situations effectively.”
Luke says the two men huffed when they were told to put their shoes on but “that was it”. In the end, the incident took around two hours to resolve. Luke complained that during this time the passengers were given no update.
Police officers said they had boarded the plane to “prevent a breach of the peace” but when the two men stood up to leave the plane, other passengers protested and demanded they remained in their seats.
Eventually, the Captain took to the public address system to tell the passengers that a replacement crew were being sent to the plane.
“The crew are now being replaced but if anyone doesn’t listen when the new crew arrive, you’ll be removed and arrested,” the pilot apparently told the passengers.
easyJet insists that it didn’t remove the cabin crew because of the actions of the passengers but rather because the crew had run out of legal flying hours to perform the duty following the delay.
“EasyJet does not discriminate against any individual. Safety is our highest priority and there is nothing to suggest that discrimination played any part in the issue onboard,” a. spokesperson for the Luton-based airline said.
“The primary responsibility of our crew is for the safety of everyone onboard,” the statement continued. “An issue arose onboard the flight during taxi, the aircraft returned to stand and was met by airport police to resolve the issue before safely departing with all passengers onboard.”
“Our crew must ensure that safety requirements are followed by all passengers and as part of their role must check prior to take-off that everyone is compliant with these. This is particularly important for passengers seated in emergency exits rows where crew ensure there are no loose items during take-off.”
Video credit: Twitter / @lpgldn
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.