Does the Ryanair racism scandal demonstrate a need for training?

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In the past week the news has been rife with the story of a racist attack on a Ryanair flight from Barcelona to the UK. The failure of the cabin crew on the Ryanair flight to appropriately deal with the racist incident has highlighted the consequences of diversity and inclusion policies being regarded as a ‘tick box’ exercise.

The budget airline has faced criticism from all over the world after crew members did not remove a passenger who racially abused a black female passenger. In a film clip that was recorded by another passenger on the plane, which has been watched more than 3 million times, shows the man verbally attack the elderly disabled woman in the same row of seats as him. Some examples of the abuse that was hurled at the lady are: “don’t talk to me in a foreign language” and “you black b******”.

Several witnesses on the plane suggest that initially the cabin crew failed to respond to the tirade of abuse from the man, leaving it to another passenger to intervene first.  Eventually, the cabin crew did notice the incident and decided to take action. However, the course of action that was used has been heavily criticised as the Ryanair cabin crew decided to relocate the victim instead of the man who was giving the abuse.

The woman’s daughter who was also aboard the flight said that the cabin crew denied hearing the racist slurs, and said that if they had a complaint to make that they should ring customer services on Monday. “Ryanair have stressed that their staff are heavily trained in keeping a situation calm and safe for passengers, so that might have kicked in,” Lauren Touré, senior consultant at global diversity and inclusion consultancy Frost Included told People Management.

Throughout the process it appears as though the main focus of everybody’s safety completely wiped out the thought of any human respect or understanding of diversity. It is very apparent that safety is a priority but whilst trying to keep the situation calm on the plane, the staff completely failed to acknowledge that there was a women being abused.

In many instances of abuse, whether they are founded or not, in the past airline staff have removed the abuser from the plane. However, in this instance the cabin crew did not remove the man, instead they relocated the elderly, disabled woman. These actions were taken despite the fact that Ryanair’s terms and conditions stating that someone can be refused on board if they present aggressive or intimidating behaviours.

The CEO of Frost Included said that “dealing with racism should be a core part of training. This is not an either/or situation – the most important thing is to say ‘this is unacceptable, and if it continues you will be removed. Most major companies say they think about diversity or respect training, but often it comes from a compliance perspective or a ‘tick-box’ exercise, which does not equip people to confidently deal with these real-world situations.”

A spokesperson from Ryanair made a statement to the BBC: “we operate strict guidelines for disruptive passengers and we will not tolerate unruly behavior like this. We will be taking this matter further and disruptive or abusive behavior like this will result in passengers being banned from travel”.

Following the incident and the following publicity, Ryanair said they have reported this to Essex Police and is now therefore a Police matter, so they will make no further comment.

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