Labour MP Dawn Butler has accused Ryanair of “empowering a racist” in a letter to the airline’s CEO, after a video emerged of a passenger racially abusing an elderly black woman on a flight.
The shadow women and equalities minister demanded the company explain its response as she expressed her “anger and disappointment” at the video footage of the incident earlier this month, filmed by fellow passenger David Lawrence.
She told Michael O’Leary that the “disgusting behaviour” is unacceptable at any time, but said it was “particularly sad” that it happened during Black History month.
“I am deeply concerned by the way your company has handled this incident and I believe you have serious questions to answer,” Butler wrote.
“By not removing the person responsible from the flight, but asking the victim if she would like to move to another seat, I am concerned that you have sent a terrible message that this type of behaviour is acceptable on Ryanair flights.”
The Brent MP added: “It frankly beggars belief that the racist person was then asked if he was OK, rather than the victim who was abused. Instead of protecting the victim, Ryanair’s actions have empowered a racist.”
The scandal-hit airline is yet to respond fully to the incident, in which 77-year-old Delsie Gayle was called an “ugly black bastard”.
It has so far said it cannot comment further on the “police matter”.
The video shows the abusive passenger refusing to sit next to Gayle, and threatening to “push” her if she does not move seats.
Butler added: “I would also like to ask why it took so long for your company to respond to this incident? Ryanair has a responsibility to its customers to deal with these matters promptly but this delay sadly sends the message that Ryanair is not taking this issue seriously enough.”
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”.
Essex Police say they have identified the man and passed the information on to Spanish authorities.
Carol Gayle, the victim’s daughter, earlier told HuffPost UK that her mother was an immigrant of the Windrush generation who was returning from a trip to mark the anniversary of her husband’s death.
It comes as Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau strongly condemned the incident as she urged Ryanair to “change its procedures in such cases”.
She said Gayle has the “full support and understanding” of the Spanish city and announced she would take legal action in a widely-shared Facebook post.