Photos of a busy Aer Lingus flight have reportedly prompted the airline to review its flight procedures, after claims that social distancing measures were not being observed.
The picture - taken on Monday 4 May - showed people sitting in rows of three on the flight, with no space between them, despite government advice stating that people should maintain a distance of at least two metres from one another.
Speaking to the BBC on the Evening Extra programme, passenger Sean Mallon said that there was “no social distancing whatsoever” and that almost every seat was occupied on the flight.
Mr Mallon took photos of the plane, which show passengers packed together with little space between them.
Travelling to England for work, Mr Mallon said that airline staff didn’t offer passengers any guidance on how to maintain social distancing measures on the flight, and members of the public were allowed to take their seats as normal.
Mr Mallon said, “I would say that about 95 per cent of the seats were taken on the flight.”
Passengers were not offered hand sanitiser or told about any extra safety measures whilst they were boarding the plane.
“Once we got to the other side, I just wanted to get off the plane. Everyone just jumped up and started opening overhead compartments as normal, grabbing their bags, queuing to get off as normal. No change whatsoever,” explained Mr Mallon.
What have Aer Lingus said?
In a statement released by the company, the airline 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’ 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.”
‘No clear guidance for social distancing on aircrafts’
Belfast City Airport’s chief executive, Brian Ambrose, has said that every effort is being made to ensure that the airport is as safe as possible for travellers.
However, Mr Ambrose stated that no clear guidance on social distancing measures on aircrafts have been given.
Speaking to the BBC Northern Ireland Nolan Show, Mr Ambrose said that social distancing measures were initially in place, but the issue arose after “the first big influx of passengers” on a flight since the pandemic started.
He said it wasn’t clear whether the issue was with inadequate measures being taken, or whether it was due to people not adhering to said measures.
“For the month of April the average loads on our flights were about 20 per cent to 30 per cent, so it hadn’t become an issue with large volumes of people on a single flight. Then on Monday there were 154 passengers on a 154 seater aircraft,” Mr Ambrose said.
Mr Ambrose outlined how maintaining safe social distancing on an aircraft is near impossible.
“It’s not clear to anyone within the industry how you can ever achieve social distancing on an aircraft,” he said.
“The reason the government has not been definitive is you cannot square this circle.
“You can’t keep two people two metres apart in an airplane. You are in a closed environment where there is a mixing of air.”