The family of an elderly black woman who was racially abused on a Ryanair flight has told HuffPost UK they are “surprised, disgusted and hurt” that they have still had no contact from the airline, despite the Transport Secretary suggesting what occurred on board was a crime.
Windrush generation migrant Mrs Gayle, 77, was returning from a holiday to mark the anniversary of her husband’s death with her daughter, when the incident occurred just before their flight took off.
In a shocking video captured by fellow passenger David Lawrence, a man can be heard referring to the pensioner as an “ugly black bastard”. He appears to be refusing to sit next to her and threatening to “push” her if she does not sit elsewhere.
Following a brief and heated argument, the elderly woman is moved elsewhere on the aircraft while the man remains in the same seat. Cabin crew seen in the video appear to take no action against the man.
On Monday, Theresa May’s spokesman refused to comment explicitly on the incident, but he said the prime minister was “clear” she condemned racial abuse.
“When people are travelling and going about their public life, no-one should be subjected to intimidation or any form of abuse,” he added.
“The prime minister has always been clear that racial abuse is abhorrent.
“In relation to this particular case, there’s obviously an investigation being conducted by Essex Police and it’s right that I don’t comment specifically on that.”
The incident has prompted widespread criticism and outrage, with many people questioning why the man was not removed from aircraft and reported to the police.
On Monday afternoon in an interview with ITV, Mrs Gayle described how she felt following the encounter. “I was shocked, nobody ever said those words to me.
“I travel a lot, I go to Canada... and no-one has ever said those words to me,” she said.
“I feel really depressed about it. I go to my bed and say ‘what have I done?’ I haven’t done anything for you to attack me. Because of the colour of my skin I was abused like that?”
David Lawrence, the man who filmed the incident, told BBC Breakfast this morning that he does not regret filming what happened, explaining that “now the world knows” what happened.
“I had to make a difficult decision at that time because if I had stepped in I don’t think you would have seen the footage that I captured,” he added.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Monday: “What we saw was totally unacceptable. The fact is that race abuse of that kind is a crime. And if a crime is committed it should be dealt with appropriately.
“So therefore I would hope that notwithstanding what took place on that day, that the police would want to take action in such an extraordinarily unacceptable case.”
Under article 7 of Ryanair’s terms and conditions, the airline may refuse carriage if a passenger’s “mental or physical state or attitude, behaviour or demeanour presents a hazard or risk to yourself, to passengers, to crew, or to property.”
Ryanair tweeted on Sunday morning: “We are aware of this video and have reported this matter to Essex Police.”
A spokesperson today told HuffPost UK: “As this is now a police matter, we cannot comment further.”
However, on Sunday the 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.”
This news comes as it was announced that the budget airline saw a 9% dip in pre-tax profits over the last financial half, brought on by rising fuel costs and compensation payouts for delayed and cancelled flights.
The report shows that average fares fell 3% triggered by excess capacity in Europe, an earlier Easter in the first quarter, staff shortages and cancellations of weekend flights which tend to be higher cost.