Flight abuse: From blatant unjustified eviction to intimidation by passenger

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Last week on Friday, 19 October, a racially-motivated verbal abuse incident onboard a Ryanair flight bound for London from Barcelona, Spain sparked global outrage. The video of a Caucasian British man berating an elderly black woman (who was also a British national) with racially-offensive slurs went viral after a fellow passenger, David Lawrence, recorded the incident and shared it on his Facebook.

“Stupid ugly cow” and “ugly black bastard” were among the words he had hurled at her, much to the shock and disgust of netizens everywhere who had watched the video. What had angered them most was the airline’s inaction against the nasty passenger and poor attempt at handling the situation. Instead of removing the offender, the stewards removed the innocent target of the abuse.

Less than a week after the incident, Barcelona city council announced that they would report what had happened on the flight to the police as a possible hate crime. The city’s deputy mayor, Jaume Asens shared on his official Twitter page that “Barcelona was a welcoming and anti-racist city” and so that man’s unruly behavior was most unacceptable. The Guardian also reported that the Essex police over in the UK had already identified both parties involved and passed the information over to their Spanish counterparts.

This latest inflight incident on Ryanair has reminded worldwide netizens of the United Airlines flight 3411 incident back in April 2017. The perpetrator of the so-called abuse was the airline company itself. Three security officers of Chicago’s Department of Aviation forcibly removed a Chinese-American passenger off an overbooked flight that was due to fly to Kentucky to accommodate its own four employees. The security officers physically hauled him off by his hands and legs with him screaming in full view of cabin packed with passengers. The passenger, David Dao claimed that he had been racially targeted to be removed from his seat.

It was a public relations disaster for United Airlines as Americans and people from around the world condemned the company for its awful and morally wrong move of man-handling a paying passenger on its flight. Many netizens had also called for a boycott of United Airlines.

Another example of abuse onboard a flight had taken place closer to home on Citilink, an Indonesian budget airline owned by Garuda Airlines. On 6 September 2017, a married couple from Indonesia had caused a huge ruckus onboard a Citilink flight bound for Jakarta from Medan, north Sumatra when they quarreled with a female flight attendant and eventually hitting her when she asked them to check in their luggage. Their initial refusal to leave the plane after being ordered by the pilot to do so caused the flight to be delayed for up to an hour. The couple finally left the flight when it was clear that all the other passengers wanted them off the plane.

Airline passengers are customers and as such they should be treated with respect and courtesy without prejudice by all airline companies. Any disturbance onboard a flight must be handled professionally and swiftly by a trained cabin crew with the pilot exercising his or her final authority as stated by the IATA (International Air Transport Association) to safeguard every passenger. Likewise, passengers themselves ought to practise patience and restraint when boarding a flight. This way, air travel would be made more pleasant and safer for all.