Category: Archive

Aer Lingus boss defends child restriction

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

He said he would have no difficulty with an outside body looking at the airline’s systems to see if they could be improved to a point where the care, security and safety of minors could be assured.
However, he said that unless he were satisfied that the systems are 100 percent robust, he would not rescind the ban.
“Anything less than 100 percent is unacceptable to me.”
A letter of complaint from a British judge had prompted examination of the whole question of unaccompanied minors last October, he revealed. The judge complained about what he said was “criminal irresponsibility” on the part of an Aer Lingus child steward in allowing his 8-year-old grandson to go to the toilet by himself in London Airport in the light of the abduction of murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
“He felt that this was absolutely outrageous and demanded that I review it,” Walsh said. “I immediately undertook to review our procedures and the more I looked at these issues the more concerned I became.”
Walsh went back over the files on unaccompanied minors for the last three years and found other complaints he had been unaware of.
The decision to bring in the ban was taken by the management and would be considered by the airline board, he said. At the moment the airline plans to ban children aged 12 or under from flights unless their parents or a designated guardian aged over 16 accompanies them.
Walsh said that if people had booked for an unaccompanied minor before the Feb. 1 deadline, the ticket would be honored if the airline was in a position to ensure the child’s safety.
During the course of an hour-long phone-in on RTE, Walsh emphasized that the safety of children is paramount and the decision has nothing to do with costs or lack of resources.
“This is a decision that was not taken lightly,” he said. “It was taken solely on the basis of the security and safety of the children involved.”
He said there was no logic to accusations that it was a cost-saving move, since it involved turning away in excess of euro 2.5 million a year in revenue.
“If I could satisfy myself that we could put in place arrangements and procedures at all of the airports we fly to and that they were 100 percent robust, then I would be happy,” he said.
Walsh told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport that a variety of problems had arisen. Some children had been sent to the airport unaccompanied in taxis and in other cases staff had found there was no one to meet them when they arrived at other airports.

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