Ryanair faced widespread outrage over its apparent failure to eject a passenger after racial abuse of an elderly woman.
The incident was recorded by a fellow passenger on a flight from Barcelona to Stansted on Friday and shared on social media.
Many people were angry that the airline did not remove the man from the aircraft and threatened a boycott of Ryanair.
The budget carrier said it “will not tolerate unruly behaviour like this” and referred the matter to Essex Police ahead of its first half financial results today.
The video – viewed almost two million times on Facebook – shows the man being racially abusive to the woman and threatening to “push” her to another seat.
He also shouts at her: “Don’t talk to me in a foreign language, you stupid ugly cow.”
After a flight attendant intervenes, the woman says she wants to sit with her daughter and tells the man he “stinks”. She says of the passenger: “Kick him out”.
Her daughter told The Huffington Post the row started because her mother, 77, has arthritis and it took some time for her to move out of the way for the man to get into his seat.
David Lawrence, who filmed the incident, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Everything was calm, we were getting ready to take off. And then a man came on board and arrived at his seat, then spoke very harshly to a woman sitting in the aisle seat.
“That was what got my attention as it was very loud and very aggressive. He started to shout at the woman, saying ‘get out of the way’, ‘move your feet’, ‘you shouldn’t be sitting here’.”
No flight attendants initially came over, he added. The woman’s daughter, who had been sitting elsewhere, arrived and “an argument started”, he said.
“He pushed past the woman and went to his seat,” he said, adding that what is seen in the video then unfolded – describing it as the “most disgusting exchange of racial slurs and foul language”.
The woman’s daughter said she had taken her mother, a Windrush Generation migrant who came to the UK from Jamaica in the 1960s, on holiday to mark a year since the death of her husband.
She told The Huffington Post: “I know that if I was behaving like he was – or any other black person for that matter – police would have been called and we would have been kicked off the flight.”
She added: “Mum’s really feeling upset and very stressed about this situation, on top of the grief she’s already experiencing. As for me, I’m upset about the whole thing too – the fact that the passenger wasn’t taken off the plane and how the situation was dealt with.”
A cabin crew member says to the man: “Don’t be so rude, you have to calm down.”
He then tells the older man he is going to refer the incident to his supervisor, to which the man replies: “I’m alright.”
Ryanair told the BBC: “We operate strict guidelines for disruptive passengers and we will not tolerate unruly behaviour like this.
“We will be taking this matter further and disruptive or abusive behaviour like this will result in passengers being banned from travel.”
Essex Police said yesterday: “This incident, which we were made aware of this morning, is believed to have taken place on a plane at Barcelona airport.
“Essex Police takes prejudice-based crime seriously and we want all incidents to be reported. We are working closely with Ryanair and the Spanish authorities on the investigation.”
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