On October 18th 2018, a video captured on a Ryanair flight between Barcelona and London showing what appeared to have been a disagreement/argument taking place between two passengers. The video quickly went viral as it showed one passenger taking things too far and hurling racist abuse at 77 Year old, Mrs Delsie Gayle. Regardless of how they even started arguing from the moment the man started using racist and offensive language he should have been escorted from the plane, which had not yet taken off. What the man (whose name has not yet been revealed) did could be classed as a hate crime, under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 UK any criminal offence can be a racist or religious hate crime, if the offender targeted you because of their prejudice or hostility based on race or religion. When you watch the video you can clearly see that he used racist abuse against Mrs Gayle. Now whilst a passenger tried to help calm the situation and the Ryanair team wanted to diffuse the situation once the racist abuse started the passenger should have been escorted from the plane. Having to make Mrs Gayle fly on the same plane as her aggressor must have not only been distressful but terrifying, racism does not end with name calling, history tells us this. In terms of damage control Ryanair has done little to nothing so far to handle this effectively. The police will handle this but Ryanair could have done more.
I won’t share the video but I’m sharing this disappointing response from an airline which should ensure the safety of its passengers.
The racist abuse was unacceptable and there should be zero tolerance.
This isn’t about handling a reputation, this is about doing what’s right. https://t.co/CVZHbqIz83
— Ronke Lawal (@ronkelawal) October 21, 2018
This twitter statement comes across as impersonal and uncaring. In subsequent interviews Mrs Gayles speaks about how hurtful the experience was and yet Ryanair has done nothing to reach out or make her feel like a valued customer:
A widow in her 70s, who was the victim of a racist tirade on a Ryanair flight, has told ITV News how the incident has left her in shock and unable to eat and sleep. Read more: https://t.co/5JFhtGq7HT pic.twitter.com/D0DqooV3em
— ITV News (@itvnews) October 22, 2018
Here’s my take on the situation:
PR disasters can be handled with care and if handled correctly can make a difference, a crisis does not have to mean long lasting reputational damage. In this instance however Ryanair’s silence seems to indicate that it doesn’t care about its reputation, perhaps because it has a stronghold on its corner of the market. The damage to their reputation has already been done, only time will tell if this will have an impact on Ryanair in the long term but as consumers your awareness is where you hold your power.