Ryanair has finally responded to the video of a white male passenger racially abusing a black woman on board one its flights last week.
Footage taken onboard flight FR015 from Barcelona to London Stansted on 19 October showed the man, now identified as 70-year-old David Mesher, calling 77-year-old Delsie Gayle “an ugly black bastard” and shouting “don’t talk to me in a foreign language you stupid ugly cow”.
The video quickly went viral after it was shared on Twitter, and Europe’s largest airline faced mounting pressure to apologise to Mrs Gayle and explain the actions of cabin crew, who did not remove Mesher from the flight and instead moved Gayle to another seat to defuse the argument.
One week on, the airline has today released a statement to “prevent any further inaccurate and/or unfounded media reportage” of the incident.
It said: “Ryanair only became aware of this video late on Saturday 20 October,” adding that it “immediately reported this video, and the racist abuse, to the Essex Police in Stansted Airport at 9am on Sunday 21 October.
“We provided the Police with a copy of the video, and relevant details of the two passengers involved. These prompt actions disprove the false claims that Ryanair did not respond ‘quickly’ or ‘appropriately’ to this video. To allow the Police investigation to occur, Ryanair declined to comment to media despite the considerable and inaccurate media commentary.”
As reported by The Independent, the incident technically might not be in Essex Police’s jurisdiction. It took place prior to take-off while the plane was on the ground in Barcelona; if the doors were open, the flight had not yet begun and it would therefore be local police who are responsible for investigating. If doors had closed and the aircraft had pushed back from the stand, police from the country where the aircraft is registered would have authority.
Ryanair has said cabin crew were unaware of the racist comments and only knew that an argument was taking place between two passengers.
It continued: “They followed company procedure to defuse the argument and separate the passengers by offering to move one to alternative seating.
“In this case, the female passenger was moved at her request, to a seat adjacent to her daughter who was also travelling on this flight. 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, and since there was no threat to aircraft safety, the issue of offloading one passenger did not arise.”
Ryanair says the Captain was not informed of the argument between the two passengers, nor were airport security personnel in Barcelona alerted, because the crew considered the verbal argument to have been successfully deescalated.
The low cost airline added that it contacted Gayle via email and letter at 11am on Sunday 21 October, “apologising sincerely for what happened on board the aircraft and advising her that the matter had been reported to the Essex Police at Stansted Airport.”
The statement continued: “The claim made in the media in recent days, that Ryanair did not contact or apologise to the female passenger, is untrue.”
Ryanair’s head of communications, Robin Kiely, said: “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, and 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.”
Police in Barcelona and Essex are currently investigating; earlier this week, the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, called the video “unbearable”, adding that Barcelona “wouldn’t take this lying down”.
She said: “As a city we’re going to take this seriously, initiate legal action and present the video as proof. Not just so that this racist, hate-filled man is punished, but also to force the company to change its procedures in such cases and support victims rather than aggressors.”
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