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Ryanair issues statement in wake of racist abuse row

October 29, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

As it desperately tries to fend off social media criticism of how it handled an in-flight incident involving prolonged racist abuse of an elderly disabled passenger, Ryanair has issued a statement it hopes will clarify the situation.

A widely circulated video showed the incident and was viewed by millions of people. See: As pilot strikes die down, airline racism row flares up

The male passenger on the flight filmed making the abusive remarks to an elderly disabled woman has appeared on a prime time British TV show to apologise and to insist he is not a racist, blaming his outburst on a “just a fit of temper at the time, I think”.

Ryanair issued a statement, as follows:

  1. Ryanair cannot name either of the two passengers involved in this incident for data protection reasons and does not wish to compromise the investigation currently underway by Police services in Essex and Barcelona, but wishes to clarify the following facts, to prevent any further inaccurate and/or unfounded media reportage:
  1. Ryanair only became aware of this video late on Sat 20th Oct, which showed that racist abuse had taken place during a verbal argument between two passengers seated adjacent to each other during the boarding of this flight on Fri 19th. Ryanair immediately reported this video, and the racist abuse, to the Essex Police in Stansted Airport at 9am on Sun 21st Oct. 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.
  1. Ryanair’s Spanish cabin crew were aware of an argument between these two passengers during the boarding process, but were not aware of, as they were not present when, racist comments were made by the male passenger towards the female passenger. While these events were videoed by another passenger on a mobile phone, this video was not shown to cabin crew until after landing in London Stansted. Ryanair did not become aware of the contents of the video until late on Sat evening when it gained widespread coverage on social media.
  1. As the cabin crew believed they were dealing with an argument between two passengers, 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. The Captain was not informed of any argument between the two passengers, and nor were airport security in Barcelona alerted, because as far as the cabin crew were concerned, the verbal argument had been defused.
  1. Ryanair immediately wrote, both by email and letter, to the female passenger at 11am on Sun morning, 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. We also invited the passenger to contact the airline if they wished to discuss the matter further. The claim made in the media in recent days, that Ryanair did not contact or apologise to the female passenger, is untrue.
  1. Ryanair will be happy to answer any further questions or queries that may arise as soon as the Essex Police and the Barcelona Police authorities have concluded their investigations and have decided what action to take.
  1. Ryanair has a long record of not tolerating disruptive or abusive passenger behaviour, and we have been to the forefront of calling for greater powers and more effective Government follow-up in cases of passenger disruption onboard flights.

Ryanair’s Robin Kiely [Head of Communications] 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. 

“We trust that this statement will address the inaccurate media coverage of this incident over recent days, and that the legal rights of both passengers will be respected, while the Police services in Essex and Barcelona conduct their investigation of this matter, with Ryanair’s hill cooperation and assistance.”

Written by Peter Needham

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