Business & Tech

Ryanair under fire for ignoring passenger’s racist rant

People are threatening to boycott Ryanair after employees of the Dublin-based budget airline failed to remove a man who was caught on video making racist comments about a fellow passenger prior to takeoff.
AFP/Getty Images/File
People are threatening to boycott Ryanair after employees of the Dublin-based budget airline failed to remove a man who was caught on video making racist comments about a fellow passenger prior to takeoff.

LONDON — From his window seat on a Ryanair flight set to take off for London, the white man berated and bullied an elderly black passenger, loudly ordering her to move out of his way, and making racist comments about her appearance and her accent.

He called her a “stupid, ugly cow” and an “ugly black bastard,” and told her not to speak to him in a “foreign language,” although the Jamaican-born woman was speaking English.

Flight attendants did not usher him to a different seat or off the plane. Instead, with a cellphone camera recording, the woman was forced to move as the man threatened to push her. The flight took off from Barcelona, without the man apparently facing consequences.

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Ryanair’s handling of the episode Friday is now the focus of intense criticism, with people threatening to boycott the Dublin-based budget airline, and British officials promising to raise the issue in Parliament.

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Among those endorsing a boycott was David Lammy, a Labour Party lawmaker who, on Twitter, cited Rosa Parks’s famed stand against discrimination on a bus, adding, “We ain’t going back.”

Another lawmaker, Karl Turner, who speaks for Labour on transportation, wrote on Twitter: “@Ryanair have failed spectacularly here. Suspect the pressure to turn this aircraft around quickly and get it airborne meant that they have allowed this alleged offender to remain on the aircraft. He may now get away with it.”

A spokeswoman for Ryanair said the airline had reported the incident to police in Essex, who are in charge of the region around London Stansted Airport, where the flight landed, and would not comment.

The passenger who made the recording, David Lawrence, posted the video on Facebook; it has been viewed millions of times and reposted by many users. The police asked anyone with information to call them.

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“Essex Police takes prejudice-based crime seriously and we want all incidents to be reported,” the police said in a statement. “We are working closely with Ryanair and the Spanish authorities on the investigation.”

But Karl Turner, who speaks for Labour on transportation, said that because Ryanair is an Irish company and the incident happened on the ground in Spain, the man most likely could not be prosecuted in Britain. He criticized the airline for not alerting Spanish authorities while the plane was on the tarmac. “@Ryanair have ‘tolerated’ criminal behaviour,” Turner said on Twitter.

The man started ranting at the woman on the aisle after he tried sliding past her during boarding. The woman, who has arthritis, did not get up speedily enough for his liking, and by the time Lawrence had taken out his cellphone to record, the woman’s daughter was defending her. “Don’t tell me what to do,” he answered. “If I tell her to get out, she gets out.”

A flight attendant tried to calm the man and the woman’s daughter. But after the flight attendant moved out of the cellphone video frame, the man grew even angrier.

The woman soon got up to sit with her daughter, and the flight attendant told the man he would speak to a supervisor.

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The woman’s daughter told Huffington Post UK that they had traveled to Barcelona to commemorate a year since her father’s death.

The daughter said of the man who berated her mother: “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.”

Ryanair’s profits have been falling as the carrier — the biggest discount airline in Europe — dealt with rising costs and flight cancellations.

Watch: Rant allegedly filmed aboard Ryanair flight