Ryanair has vowed to ban abusive passengers from its flights after a man launched a racist tirade against a woman in her 70s.
The announcement comes after customers threatened to boycott the airline because of its apparent inaction during the incident, which occurred on a plane flying from Barcelona to London Stansted.
Footage of the unnamed man calling the pensioner an “ugly black bastard”, has been viewed on Facebook more than 1.8 million times.
The budget airline told the BBC: “We operate strict guidelines for disruptive passengers and we will not tolerate unruly behaviour like this.
“We will be taking this matter further and disruptive or abusive behaviour like this will result in passengers being banned from travel.”
Ryanair said in a separate statement it was aware of the footage and had reported the incident to Essex Police. “As this is now a police matter, we cannot comment further”, it added.
But Essex Police said the incident happened on a plane at Barcelona Airport and it was not immediately clear who was leading the investigation
The row apparently broke out after the 77-year-old woman was unable to move out of her aisle seat quickly enough to let the man sit down in his window seat.
The video, shot by UK resident David Lawrence, shows the man shouting at the woman to move seats, while her daughter tells him her mother is disabled.
He replies: “I don’t care whether she’s f****** disabled or not – if I tell her to get out she gets out.”
The flight attendant then asks the woman if she would like to move to another seat and the woman tells him she would like to sit near her daughter.
The man tells her to move seat, to which the woman responds: “You smell. You need a wash.”
Then, the man says: “If you don’t go to another seat, I’ll push you to another seat.”
Later, he says: “Don’t talk to me in a f****** foreign language you stupid ugly cow.”
A fellow passenger tries to intervene, asking the man to stop being abusive.
But the man says: “I will carry on as far as I can with this ugly black bastard.”
The flight attendant says the man is being “super rude” and tells him to calm down, while a number of passengers on the flight call for the man to be removed from the flight.
Politicians and social media users have strongly criticised the airline for not asking him to leave the plane.
The woman’s daughter said she had gone on holiday to Barcelona with her mother to mark a year since the death of her husband.
She told The Huffington Post: “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.
“Mum’s really feeling upset and very stressed about this situation, on top of the grief she’s already experiencing.”
A number of politicians voiced their concern at Ryanair’s apparent lack of action during the altercation.
MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde Stuart McMillan posted: “This is really appalling Ryanair. You will know the identity of the man and the level of training given to your staff.”
Fellow MSP politician Margaret Ferrier said: “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.”
In a later tweet she said the woman had been referred to Ryanair’s customer services, describing the response as “a joke”.
“CEO Michael O’Leary should be calling them to apologise profusely for the incompetence of his flight attendant in handling this racial abuse incident properly,” she added.
Essex Police said in a statement on Sunday: “This incident, which we were made aware of this morning, is believed to have taken place on a plane at Barcelona Airport.
“Essex Police takes prejudice-based crime seriously and we want all incidents to be reported.
“We are working closely with Ryanair and the Spanish authorities on the investigation.”
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