The family of an elderly Black woman subjected to a racist rant aboard a Ryanair flight from Barcelona, Spain, to London last week said they have yet to hear from “Europe’s favorite airline” about the incident, despite the Transportation Secretary’s suggestion that what occurred was indeed a crime.
The European airline came under fire after it failed to remove an unruly passenger from the flight Friday who launched into a disgustingly racist attack against 77-year-old Delsie Gayle. Gayle’s daughter, Carol Gayle, told HuffPost UK her mother was returning from a vacation marking the anniversary of her husband’s death when the racial abuse unfolded.
In video of the incident, recorded by fellow passenger David Lawrence, an unnamed man is heard screaming at the elderly woman, dubbing her an “ugly Black bastard” and refusing to sit next to her. The man even threatens at one point to “push” Gayle to another seat if she refuses to move elsewhere.
Flight crew in the video appear to take no action against the man as he continues harassing the woman, who’s also disabled. After a brief war of words, an attendant moves Gayle to a different seat while the unruly man is allowed to remain in his.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today show, Secretary of State Transport Chris Grayling called the midair incident “totally unacceptable” and said appropriate action must be taken.
“The fact is that race abuse of that kind is a crime. And if a crime is committed it should be dealt with appropriately,” Grayling said. “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,” he added.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Teresa May declined to comment on the incident specifically but said the PM “has always been clear that racial abuse is abhorrent.”
He continued: “When people are traveling and going about their public life, no-one should be subjected to intimidation or any form of abuse.”
Under Article 7 of Ryanair’s Terms and Conditions, the airline says it reserves the right to refuse carriage if a passenger’s “… mental or physical state or attitude, behavior or demeanor presents a hazard or risk to yourself, to passengers, to crew, or to property.”
The company posted a tweet Friday saying it was aware of the incident and had reported it to Essex Police, who are now investigating. However, shadow transport minister Karl Turner told The Guardian the case may result in no charges, seeing as Ryanair failed to immediately boot the man from the plane and turn him over to Spanish authorities (the flight departed from Barcelona).
Moreover, Turner noted that because the airline is registered in Dublin, Ireland, and the incident occurred on Spanish soil, U.K. law does not apply. The unidentified man would essentially have to turn himself into Spanish police — a turn of events Turner has called “doubtful.”
Delsie Gayle, a Jamaican native living in East London, said the entire ordeal has left her feeling “shocked” and very sad.
“Nobody has ever said those words to me,” she told ITV News on Monday. “I feel really depressed about it. I go to my bed and say ‘what’ve I done?’ I haven’t done anything for you to attack me. Because of the color of my skin I was abused like that?”
Watch more in the clip below.