A white Ryanair passenger who launched a vitriolic and racist rant at a black passenger could avoid the consequences of his action because the flight had not taken off, Labour’s transport spokesman has claimed.
The passenger was filmed calling the victim — identified as Mrs Gayle, 77, from East London and a member of the Windrush generation — an “ugly black b*****d”, as well as shouting “don’t talk to me in a foreign language, you stupid ugly cow” (The Telegraph).
The Associated Press reported the shocking incident was captured 19th October on Ryanair flight FR015 from Barcelona to London Stansted by Kent resident David Lawrence, who uploaded it to social media.
Lawrence said that, in the age of social media, “visual is important” and “now the world knows” what happened (The Belfast Telegraph).
He told BBC Breakfast: “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.”
The footage has sparked widespread outrage, with even Prime Minister Theresa May wading into the issue on Monday, 22th October.
Her spokesman said: “When people are travelling, going about their public life, no-one should be subjected to intimidation or any form of abuse.
“The PM has always been clear that racial abuse is abhorrent.”
“In relation to this particular case there is obviously an investigation which is being conducted by Essex Police and it is right that I don’t comment specifically on that.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is also demanding police intervention over the incident.
However, Labour East Hull MP Karl Turner says British police may be powerless to act, because the incident happened on Spanish soil and Ryanair is an Irish company.
He wrote on Twitter : “Suspect the pressure to turn this aircraft around quickly and get it airborne meant that they have allowed this alleged offender to remain on the aircraft.
“He may now get away with it.”
Turner, who is a qualified barrister, says the incident is not covered by UK law because it happened before the plane took off.
“@Ryanair failure to deplane the alleged racist offender, handing him over to the Spanish authorities probably means that he isn’t now prosecuted.”
The budget airline tweeted Sunday, 21st October that it had seen the footage and reported the incident to police, but it didn’t provide further comment.