Lawyers from UK plaintiffs’ firm Leigh Day said on 5 November they had written to Irish budget airline Ryanair asking it to explain its handling of an incident in which a 77-year old woman was “racially abused” on a flight from Barcelona to London Stansted in October.

The firm says it has asked the airline to apologise and compensate passenger Delsie Gayle for the distress caused by abuse she allegedly received from fellow passenger David Mesher in a dispute over seating prior to take-off. The incident was filmed by a fellow passenger and the video posted online.

Ryanair failed to remove Mesher from the flight and did not support Gayle following the “verbal assault”, the firm alleges, instead asking her to move seats twice despite her suffering from arthritis and having a replacement knee.

Gayle’s lawyers claim that “at no point at the time or afterwards did any member of the cabin crew check her well-being” and that her “efforts to raise a complaint with the crew at the end the flight were met with disinterest and obstructiveness”.

The firm further claims the cabin crew took no action against Mesher and asks what steps the airline is taking to minimise the risk of similar incidents in the future. It also asks what related training the airline will provide to crew as a result and whether Ryanair will “now endorse, adopt and apply standards such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which are designed to prevent such incidents”.

“We have not yet received any letter from these lawyers,” a Ryanair spokesperson told ALN. “Given that Ryanair immediately reported this matter to the Essex Police when we became aware of the video, and apologised in writing to the affected passenger, it is already crystal clear that Ryanair has taken this issue seriously.”

The airline issued a statement on 26 October claiming that it had not seen the video of the incident until the day after the flight, at which point it contacted the police. This disproves “the false claims that Ryanair did not respond ‘quickly’ or ‘appropriately’ to this video”, the airline argued.

It claimed that although cabin crew were aware of the argument, they were not present when “racist comments were made by the male passenger towards the female passenger” and the video was not shown to them after landing, and they followed company procedure by moving Gayle “at her request”. According to the airline, both passengers said they were “okay” when asked.

“We again extend our very sincere apologies to this passenger for the regrettable, and unacceptable remarks that were made to her by an adjacent passenger,” Ryanair’s head of communications Robin Kiely said, adding that the airline believes it treated the incident “with the urgency and seriousness it warranted” in its report to the police and subsequent apology to Gayle.