Five musicians were awarded damages after a Ryanair pilot refused to carry them, acting on the suspicion of an onboard psychologist.
(This is clearly a man whose awareness of the limits of his own expertise had been misinformed by tv programmes with psychologists and profiler heroes, such as Cracker and Criminal Intent. The pilot may also have watched too many of these.)
The story would be quite comical if it didn’t involve serious embarrassment and major inconvenience to some blameless travellers.
…. And if the incident didn’t expose pure racism …..
The paranoid psychologist saw 5 black men sitting separately on the plane, although they had been together in the departure lounge. (Has he never been on a packed plane before? Maybe he knows the secret of getting 5 adjoining seats without booking 2 years in advance. It’s often tough enough to get two seats in the same part of the plane.)
He claimed that one of the men, who was blind, appeared to be reading a newspaper. (The blind man’s friends were actually reading to him, but in any case, blindness is not necessarily total. Does a blind person incur a duty of complete blindness on themselves, in case their limited sight turns out to confuse people. )
Apparently impressed by the psychology professor’s logic, the Ryanair pilot,
Captain Dunlop decided to remove the men, the only black people on the flight, after two families and a stewardess said that they would not fly with them on board.
So, even after the men had been removed from the flight and their credentails fully established, Captain Douglas refused to have them on board.
The decision left the group stranded in Sardinia and unable to see their families on New Year’s Eve. The first available flight back to Britain on New Year’s Day was to Liverpool. The men could not find a hotel when they arrived in the city and had to spend the night at a bus station, sleeping on their instruments. They only got back to London on January 2.
Even if you choose to ignore the obvious racism behind all this, the incident speaks volumes about where our anti-terrorist panic is leading us, as a society. We seem to be becoming more and more like the McCann “witness” – who saw a non-Anglo-saxon man in the resort, a few days before the McCann’s arrival, and assumed that he must be the person responsible for the disapperance of Madeleine. The British press seem more than happy to treat this prejudiced nonsense as a genuine witness statement.
This psychologist did the same. He saw some people who stood out – to him – ONLY by the fact of their not being white. He then chose to interpret their every action as a threat and to report them to an authority – the pilot – who immediately went along with the claims of a middle-class white passenger, despite their innate absurdity.
- Professional terrorists whose plan somehow requires that there be 5 of them together on a flight but that they appear to be strangers to each other.
- They also have to pretend to be a steel band, thereby making a mockery of the whole “unknown to each other” idea.
- One of them has to pretend to be blind.
This already constitutes a plan so cunning as to be incomprehensible to mere mortals. What could possibly be achieved by having an ostensibly blind passenger, who was actually sighted? Would a terrorist act be more effective if any stray nosey fellow-passenger passers-by might assume those involved weren’t travelling as a group.But the oddest assumption is that the supposed terrorist architects of this intricate and complex plan do not even have the wit to stick to it for a couple of hours.
They are “terrorists” so inept that they can be out-thought by an academic with a plane ticket – someone who fills no formal intelligence or security role and has no access to any information whatsoever, except his own prejudices, in fact.
The judge gave them 4 times the standard amount of damages, but this sum still seems derisory, especially as RyanAir even gave a false story to the press.
Normally, damages for being denied boarding are limited to £250, but the judge said that the group’s “embarrassment at being the only black persons removed from the aircraft at gunpoint for no just reason, their inability to be with their families and friends on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the overnight stay in the cold of Liverpool, [all] had to be taken into account”.
Ryanair had also lied about the incident to the press. Peter Sherrard, the airline’s head of communications, had told newspapers that “airport security were informed and decided to remove the group”, and that “no request was made to our pilot to allow this group to reboard”. This was “false and misleading”, the judge said.