A RYANAIR passenger who racially abused an elderly woman on a flight has publicly apologised but has denied he is a racist.
David Mesher called 77-year-old Delsie Gayle an ‘ugly black b******’ on a flight before it took off in Barcelona on Friday of last week.
Video of the incident quickly emerged on social media and caused widespread outrage.
Mr Mesher apologised for the first time, in an interview aired today, after he was captured yelling at the widow and saying: ‘Don’t speak to me in a foreign language, you stupid ugly cow.’
The man, who was spoken to by police in Birmingham, where he lives, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the dispute began after he asked Ms Gayle to move from her seat but ‘she didn’t seem to want to get up’.
‘I probably lost my temper a bit and ordered her to get up,’ he said, adding that he ‘absolutely’ regrets his behaviour and apologises for it.
‘I’m not a racist person by any means and it’s just a fit of temper at the time, I think,’ he continued.
But Ms Gayle said she did not accept the apology over the language used on the plane on October 19.
‘I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘You must forget and forgive but it’s going to take a long time for me to get over what he has done to me.’
Ryanair also faced criticism for how it handled the incident as the cabin crew refused to throw Mr Mesher off the flight and instead moved Ms Gayle to another seat.
The airline made a lengthy defence of its conduct today, claiming it became aware of the video circulating online late on Saturday night before sharing it with Essex Police at 9am the following day.
The airline, saying it was issuing the statement to dispel ‘false claims’ that it did not respond quickly, said the Spanish crew were not aware of the racist comments before take-off.
‘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 added.
Ryanair did not immediately respond when asked why cabin crew did not report the incident to police after being shown the footage.
The airline said crew spoke to both passengers, who told them they were ‘OK’, and decided to commence with take-off without removing the aggressor after deciding there was no threat to aircraft safety.
Ms Gayle and her daughter, Carol Gayle, have been highly critical of the airline, and said it had not apologised directly.
Ryanair shared with the press images of a letter and an email it said was sent to Delsie Gayle on Sunday morning.
Officers from West Midlands Police assisted Essex Police, who are leading the investigation, by speaking to Mr Mesher in his sheltered accommodation in Yardley Wood yesterday.
The incident took place on the tarmac of Barcelona Airport before the plane departed for Stansted, so UK police have said officers will pass the investigation to Spanish authorities.