Ryanair has broken its silence over the racist abuse filmed on board a flight, issuing a statement making a series of points to “clarify” the matter and criticising “inaccurate and unfounded media reportage”.
On Friday the company said it did not want to compromise an investigation currently underway by police in Essex and Barcelona, but said it was aware of the incident in which Delsie Gayle, 77, who was returning home from a holiday following the death of her husband, was shouted at by David Mesher, who called her an “ugly black bastard”.
Ryanair has been widely criticised for its handling of the incident, during which flight attendants failed to contact police, or remove Mesher from the flight. The airline has now said it made efforts to contact Gayle, a Windrush generation migrant, but the family say they are yet to hear directly from the airline regarding the abuse.
In a statement issued on Friday, the airline said it only became aware of the video, captured by David Lawrence, late on Saturday 20th October, 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 Friday 19th”.
Ryanair claimed it immediately reported this video to Essex Police in Stansted Airport at 9am on Sunday 21st October. “We provided the police with a copy of the video, and relevant details of the two passengers involved,” a statement read.
The airline claimed these “prompt actions” disprove what it called “false claims” that the company did not respond “quickly” or “appropriately” to the video.
It said its Spanish cabin crew were aware of “an argument” between the two passengers during the boarding process, “but were not aware of, as they were not present when, racist comments that 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,” the statement claimed. “Ryanair did not become aware of the contents of the video until late on Saturday evening when it gained widespread coverage on social media.”
Of the actions of its flight attendants, the airline has said that its cabin crew “simply believed they were dealing with an argument between two passengers and 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,” the statement read.
In the statement, Ryanair claims to have immediately written, both by email and letter, to Delsie Gayle at 11am on Sunday morning, apologising for what happened on board the aircraft and advising her that the matter had been reported to Essex Police at Stansted Airport.
The statement offered assurances that “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 on board flights.”
Ryanair expressed that it would “be happy to answer any further questions or queries that may arise as soon as Essex Police and the Barcelona Police authorities have concluded their investigations and have decided what action to take.”
Mesher, 70, from Birmingham appeared on Good Morning Britain on Friday morning to apologise for the incident, but denied he was a racist. He said: “I said ‘I’ve got to get to the window seat’ and there didn’t seem to be any response.
“And then I asked her again, I said ‘I have to get to the window seat’ and she didn’t seem to want to get up... Then I probably lost my temper a bit and I ordered her to get up.”
He said: “I’m not a racist person by any means and it’s just a fit of temper at the time, I think.”
Asked if she accepts Mesher’s apology, Gayle, who also appeared on the programme on Friday, said: “You must forget and forgive but it is going to take a long time, for me to get over what he has done to me.”
Ryanair’s head of communications, Robin Kiely, 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 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 full co-operation and assistance.”