Two women were thrown off a Vueling flight last Saturday at Barcelona-El Prat airport for addressing the crew in Catalan, according to online newspaper VilaWeb.
One of the two lives on Menorca, the flight's destination. When already in the plane a stewardess asked her to put a print of a painting into one of the overhead compartments. The passenger replied, in a friendly manner, that she would, but was waiting for everyone to leave their things first, as she didn't want to crease the painting. The crew member immediately replied that she had to reply to her in Spanish, and asked if the problem was that she didn't speak it.
Another woman walking along the aisle then came to the defence of the first passenger, recriminating the stewardess for having "lacked respect towards this customer. You have to understand Catalan, we're on a flight from Barcelona to Menorca!" Catalan is an official language in both Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. After the incident, another stewardess told them both that the captain wanted to speak with them.
The captain, accompanied by a pair of Civil Guard agents, told them that they had shown a lack of respect for the stewardess and had to leave the aircraft. Although the two women said that they had only spoken in Catalan, the captain told them to leave saying that the "decision was firm".
"The captain's treatment was authoritarian, he told us that we had nothing to say because we had lacked respect to the stewardess and she had left crying," explained one of the passengers. The Civil Guard agents asked the two for their ID cards. One of the women commented that they wanted to make them feel guilty for having spoken Catalan.
No more tickets
Once off the plane, they both went to Vueling's counters to claim a refund and buy tickets for the flight the next day. To their surprise, the woman at the desk told them that they couldn't fly with Vueling, as they had been prohibited from selling them tickets. To rescue the situation, they decided to buy their tickets by phone, with no guarantee that they would be able to fly.
So far, Vueling has given no explanation.
Catalan MEP Ramon Tremosa announced via Twitter that he will denounce this "violation of fundamental rights" on Tuesday to the European Commission in a written question.