But Delsie Gayle rejected David Mesher’s public apology, aired on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, saying he wouldn’t have said what he said if he wasn’t racist.
In the same morning, Ryanair – which came under fire for not throwing Mr Mesher off the flight – made a lengthy defence of its conduct in a statement.
Video footage of Mr Mesher’s verbal attack on Ms Gayle, during which he called her an “ugly black b**tard” and said “Don’t speak to me in a foreign language, you stupid ugly cow” sparked outrage after it was shared on social media.
Mr Mesher, who was been spoken to by police in Birmingham, where he lives, has now apologised for the first time for the incident, which happened on the flight from Barcelona to London on October 19.
In his interview, he said the argument started after he asked Ms Gayle to move from her seat but “she didn’t seem to want to get up”.
He said: “I probably lost my temper a bit and ordered her to get up. I’m not a racist person my any means and it’s just a fit of temper at the time, I think. I apologise for all the distress you’ve had there and since.”
But Ms Gayle rejected the apology, saying: “You must forget and forgive but it’s going to take a long time for me to get over what he has done to me.”
Her daughter Carol added: “He says he wasn’t racist – he wouldn’t be saying words like that if he wasn’t racist.”
In a lengthy statement, Ryanair said it “immediately” reported the video on Sunday after it surfaced on social media, but added that cabin crew were shown the video after the flight landed at Stansted Airport two days earlier.
The budget airline – which has also been criticised by Ms Gayle and her daughter – said it was was issuing the statement to dispel “false claims” that it did not respond quickly.
Ryanair said cabin crew spoke to both passengers who told them they were “OK” and decided to commence with take-off without removing the aggressor after deciding there was no threat to aircraft safety, but the airline did not immediately respond when asked why crew did not report the incident to police after being shown the footage.
Answering Ms Gayle’s claims that it had not apologised directly, the airline shared images of a letter and an email it said was sent to her on Sunday morning.
Ryanair communications chief Robin Kiely said: “We believe that by reporting this matter immediately to Essex Police and by apologising in writing to this customer early on Sunday morning, Ryanair treated it with the urgency and seriousness it warranted.
The incident took place on the tarmac of Barcelona Airport before the plane departed for Stansted, so UK police have said officers will pass the investigation to Spanish authorities.