Leading article: Plane offensive

Our revelations today of casual and obnoxious racism among employees of British Airways come at an especially uncomfortable time for the "world's favourite airline".

For an organisation still smarting from the debacle of Terminal 5's opening at Heathrow, the scandal of the mistreatment of a plane-load of passengers on a flight to Nigeria, and the loss of its stranglehold on transatlantic flights, the last thing it needs is a row about staff racism. But this is not an issue that can be ignored.

Any company would have to investigate allegations such as this – if true, they reflect appalling attitudes. But British Airways is not just any company; it is the national flag carrier. It represents Britain around the world.

If British Airways' chief executive Willie Walsh expects his airline to retain that cherished status and esteem, he will put his house in order without delay.