Lee Ryan, who is best known for being a member of the Uk boyband Blue, has been found guilty of racially assaulting a female British Airways cabin crew member.
On the 31st of July 2022, the 39-year-old singer travelled on board a British Airways flight from Scotland, Glasgow to London City Airport. Before the flight, it has been confirmed that Lee Ryan had drunk a whole bottle of port in an airport lounge, leading to him being heavily inebriated. Despite this, the star still requested more alcohol whilst on the flight, which he was refused.
Whilst on board the aircraft, Mr. Ryan inappropriately interacted with British Airways flight attendant Leah Gordon. According to the British Airways flight attendant, the Blue singer made sexualising and fetishizing comments about her skin colour. Ms. Gordon shared with the court the comments that Lee Ryan had made toward her.
“He was making comments about my complexion, ‘you’re my chocolate darling, my chocolate cookie, and I’m going to have your chocolate children’.”
Before getting off the British Airways flight, he grabbed both of Leah Gordon’s wrists and tried to kiss her, causing passengers to intervene. The interaction between the two left Leah Gordon feeling intimidated and targeted as a Black woman, both feelings that should not be experienced in the workplace.
Lee Ryan has since publicly apologised tearfully in court. He stated,
“I’m sorry. My band member is black, I’m not racist, I’ve had black girlfriends, mixed-race girlfriends. It was banter, just drunk banter I suppose, there was no malice or intention to upset anyone. I didn’t mean to cause any distress to anyone or be racist, it was just a poor choice of words I suppose.”
Alongside being found guilty of racially assaulting Leah Gordon, Lee Ryan has also been found guilty of assaulting a police officer and being drunk on a plane.
He will be sentenced on the 24th of February.
Is This a Common Occurrence for Cabin Crew Members?
As cabin crew members are the face of airlines, they are heavily exposed to interactions with the public, some of which are not pleasant. In a survey collected by the Association of Flight Attendants CWA, 85% of flight attendants admitted to having to deal with unruly passengers including violent encounters. Global Media Company Forbes provided multiple flight attendants the opportunity to share their personal experiences of racism whilst on a shift in 2021.
An American Airlines flight attendant named Teddy Andrews reflected on an incident where he had kindly asked a passenger to wear his mask whilst on board a flight. Though this occurred during the height of the pandemic, the passenger was furious about this request and called Mr. Andrews racial slurs such as the N-word.
Though aviation authorities have made it clear that they are there to protect flight crew members from incidents such as these, many flight crews have admitted that they do not always feel like this is the case.
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