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Irish Olympian hits out at Aer Lingus following flight debacle

The athlete had been travelling to a competition as part of his preparations for Rio.

Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe has represented Ireland at the Olympics.
Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe has represented Ireland at the Olympics.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated at 13.07

IRISH OLYMPIAN ARTHUR Lanigan-O’Keeffe expressed his disappointment today after he was “kicked off” an Aer Lingus flight.

On a Facebook post explaining the controversy, the Irish athlete who competes in modern pentathlon, claims the airline told him he was removed from the flight “because I had fencing equipment”.

Lanigan-O’Keeffe had been travelling to a competition as part of his preparations for this summer’s 2016 Olympics in Rio, and described being “publicly embarrassed” by the incident, adding:

I dedicate my life to ensure i make my country proud at the Olympics in Rio only to be let down be my National Airline (Aer lingus), I will miss the competition and waste valuable funding that I spent on Flights, & Hotel etc!”

Lanigan-O’Keeffe, who won gold at the European Modern Pentathlon Championships last year, said he was “hugely disappointed” by the airline’s decision and urged people to share his post “so they dont (sic) get away with this”.

Further clarifying his comments in response to questions posed to him, Lanigan-O’Keeffe said he did not bring his equipment on as hand luggage.

“I always travel with Aerlingus they have no policy against fencing equipment it is not even capitalised as a weapon. I usually travel with a gun also but I didn’t even have it with me this time! Makes no sense I tried to explain but to no avail.

“Of course I did not bring it on as hand luggage, The reason it was out was to try and explain to the pilot that it wasn’t a weapon and that really the tips were just buttons not Sharpe objects! I travel around the world with this kit and have done for 10years (Regional flights ALSO) I know the protocol please don’t be so ignornant (sic).”

In a subsequent Facebook post, the athlete — who represented Ireland at the 2012 Olympics in London — clarified that he didn’t blame the cabin crew of the plane for the incident who were “following orders from management” and explained that he merely sought an apology and a refund for the cost of his trip from Aer Lingus.

“I do not wish to press charges or gain revenge in anyway,” he wrote.

Things like this happen, It is incredibly frustrating but whats (sic) done is done. I am much better putting my energy into training than making this a big deal.”

He also thanked people for their support after his initial Facebook post got over 900 likes and more than 700 shares.

Aer Lingus have yet to respond to requests for comment, while O’Keeffe has been in touch with The42 to confirm the story.

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Paul Fennessy

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