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Northern Ireland health minister 'shocked' by images of packed Aer Lingus flight

Photos seemed to show little evidence of social distancing on a flight from Belfast to London.

Aer Lingus said it is carrying out after pictures of the full flight circulated.
Aer Lingus said it is carrying out after pictures of the full flight circulated.
Image: Leon Farrell/

Updated May 5th 2020, 9:05 PM

NORTHERN IRELAND’S HEALTH Minister Robin Swan has criticised Aer Lingus after pictures emerged of an almost-full flight from Belfast with no apparent evidence of social distancing measures.

Swann made his first public comments on images of the Belfast to London Heathrow flight today.

“I was shocked at the images of Aer Lingus,” he said.

“It was as if they were living in a time before Covid-19, completely oblivious of the regulations and social distancing and guidance that have been enunciated and published by our executive here and the government in Westminster.

“How they could think that the practice that they were actually carrying out was in any way in keeping with the guidance that we’ve been issuing?

“I think it’s a short, sharp shock to them that they should actually be behaving still in that manner and I would ask them publicly to actually revise that very quickly.”

Aer Lingus has initiated a review, stating today that any process changes required would be implemented as a “matter of urgency”.

Passenger on the flight, Sean Mallon, told BBC Radio Ulster there was “no social distancing whatsoever”.

“I would say there was about 95% of the seats taken on the flight,” he said.

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In a statement, Aer Lingus said: “In light of the unexpectedly high loads on the Belfast–London Heathrow service this morning and the level of demand for the route, Aer Lingus is reviewing its processes and procedures applicable to the operation of this service.

“The safety and security of Aer Lingus’s customers and crew is our top priority and any process changes that are identified as being required will be implemented as a matter of urgency.”

The airline is looking to begin negotiations as it seeks to cut up to 20% of its workforce, amid wider concerns about the impact of the pandemic on the industry. 

With reporting from Dominic McGrath and Press Association. 

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