European airline Ryanair is facing backlash after failing to boot an unruly passenger from a London-bound flight after he launched into a full-blown racist rant against an elderly Black woman.
At one point, the man threatened to shove the woman into another seat, then dubbed her an “ugly Black bastard,” according to video from the incident. U.K. authorities said they’re now appealing to witnesses to help them identify the unnamed man.
The racist rant was filmed and uploaded to social media Friday by London musician David Lawrence, who said the incident unfolded just a few seats behind him. Lawrence, 65, said he was settling in from a business trip when he heard the hubbub aboard the plane as it left Barcelona, Spain.
In the video, a man in a window seat loudly declares his displeasure with sitting next to the elderly Black woman, who was seated in an aisle seat. The man continues yelling insults at the woman and demands that she “get away from my seat.” The lady’s daughter, who was seated several rows back, quickly rushes to her mother’s defense and criticizes the man for his disrespect.
“She’s disabled, don’t you dare shout at her!” the daughter yells.
“Don’t tell me what to do. If I tell her to get out, she gets out,” the man shouts back.
He continues: “I tell you, I hope somebody sits there because I do not want to sit next to you,” pointing to the seat between them before calling the woman an “ugly f***ing cow.” “I’ll tell you this, if you don’t go to another seat, I’ll push you to another seat.”
When the elderly woman responded to his tirade in a Jamaican accent, the man yells, “Don’t talk to me in a foreign language, you stupid ugly cow!”
Recalling the incident, Lawrence said no other passengers stepped in and that there was no one in authority around. He said the flight attendant who eventually intervened could have called police, the captain or removed the man from the plane altogether. Instead, it was the Black woman who was forced to move to a different seat.
“When you watch the footage, you’ll see it starts to unfold where this man starts a torrent of abuse, absolutely disgusting, despicable words thrown at this elderly Black woman …” Lawrence told CNN in an interview.
“If that was another situation where that was a Black man doing that to an elderly white woman, they would have escorted him off the flight,” he added. “He probably would have ended up in a Spanish jail even today.”
Speaking to HuffPost UK, the woman’s daughter said the unruly man grew upset when her mother, 77, who has arthritis, took some time to move out of the way for the man to get to his seat. She said her mother, a Jamaican native living in East London, was returning from vacation marking the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death.
“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.
Ryanair addressed the incident in a Twitter post Sunday saying they were aware of the video and that Essex police were investigating. However, the post was of little consolation to critics who blasted the airline for its failure to protect the innocent woman from the man’s racist tirade.
“This happened on YOUR AIRLINE,” one critic tweeted. “YOUR EMPLOYEE took the wrong action, & unless you apologize & take immediate remedial action you’re about to have a PR DISASTER on your hands. Have you already forgotten what happened to
@united stock after they appeared tone-deaf & insensitive?”
“You are a disgrace as an airline in every department,” another chimed in. “This episode highlights your lazy greedy arrogant approach to the care of your passengers or should I say cattle. Apologise right now.”
Labour MP David Lammy, who represents the Tottenham area of London, has since called for a boycott of the airline “if they think it’s OK for a racist man to abuse an elderly black woman and remain on the plane.”
Watch more in the clip below.