Ryanair is facing a torrent of criticism after a video went viral showing flight attendants doing little to prevent a passenger from inflicting a racist tirade against a fellow passenger. Rather than remove the passenger who was hurling the insults, the airline decide to move the woman from her seat.
Another passenger on the flight, David Lawrence, caught the whole thing on video, explaining the incident took place before the departure of a flight from Barcelona to London on Thursday. The video shows the older white man calling the 77-year-old black woman an “ugly black bastard.” When the woman spoke to the man in English with a Jamaican accent, the man yelled at her: “Don’t talk to me in a foreign language, you stupid ugly cow!” The man even threatened violence at one point: “If you don’t go to another seat, I’ll put you into another seat.”
The man apparently got angry when the woman didn’t get up from her aisle seat fast enough so he could get into his window seat. The video shows the woman’s daughter angrily standing up for her mother, explaining that she is disabled, which is why she was moving slowly. “I don’t care whether she’s fucking disabled or not—if I tell her to get out she gets out,” the man says at one point.
Although there’s a flight attendant present during the altercation, he does little to stop the man’s verbal abuse even though it got so bad that another passenger had to intervene to try to calm the guy down. Some passengers can be heard calling for the man to be kicked out of the flight but the cabin crew apparently disagreed with that option.
The woman’s daughter told the HuffPost that she took her mother on a trip to try to “raise her spirits” ahead of the one-year anniversary since her husband’s death after the pair had been married for more than 50 years. “The underlying reason behind the man’s abusive behavior comes down to the fact that my mum is a black woman and he didn’t want her sitting next to him—he says it in the video,” she said. The 53-year-old noted that she’s convinced the whole thing would have gone very differently if the person yelling would have been black. “I know that if I was behaving like he was or any other black person, for that matter, police would’ve been called and we would’ve been kicked off of the flight,” she said.
Lawrence, who filmed the video, said he was upset not just at the inaction of the cabin crew but of fellow passengers as a whole. “I became very distressed because I’m filming this and I’m looking at the other passengers wondering who’s going to step in and say something because you have two females being abused by this male,” he told ITV News.
Ryanair said in a brief tweet that it had reported the incident to police.
If you think Slate’s election coverage matters…
Support our work: become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.Join Slate Plus