Independent fact-checkers have debunked false claims that British Airways is holding “crisis talks” with the UK government over the recent deaths of four pilots. Conspiracy theorists and anti-vax groups incorrectly linked the deaths with COVID-19 vaccines and started to share the claims on various social media platforms.
Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram have been quick to add explicit warnings to an audio recording that claims to be from a British Airways insider who says the airline is in “crisis talks with the government”.
“They’ve had the third BA pilot die in the last seven days, yeah? Third pilot dead in the last week,” the man can be heard saying in the unverified recording. “The first two guys were in their forties and fifties; this guy, mid-thirties, perfectly fit, no underlying conditions. He gets his second jab and he’s dead within days, exactly the same with the first two.”
“Because of this, BA are now in crisis talks with the government about whether to allow vaccinated pilots to fly. The issue with that of course is that about 80%, according to my friend in BA, 80-85% have been injected.”
The false claims started to emerge following the death of a 33-year-old British Airways pilot on June 2. A postmortem found abdominal injuries and internal bleeding after the pilot was found collapsed beside his bicycle on a mountain biking track. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
A photo of books of condolence for the recently deceased pilots in what appears to be a British Airways crew room has also been shared on social media. British Airways confirmed that the books of condolence were real after the deaths of four pilots.
“Sadly four members of our pilot community passed away recently,” a British Airways spokesperson confirmed. “Our thoughts are with their family and friends. However, there is no truth whatsoever in the claims on social media speculating that the four deaths are linked.”
There is no evidence that the deaths are linked to vaccines. One of the pilots died after being infected with COVID-19 in March 2020 and spending nearly a year in hospital in Houston, Texas. His death was widely reported several weeks ago.
Sources claim the death of another of the pilots is not linked in any way to the vaccine.
In a statement, Dr Sarah Branch, director of vigilance and risk management at the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: “We have not been made aware of deaths of BA pilots after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine and have not had discussions with BA or other airlines, about preventing pilots from flying after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.”
“There are currently no restrictions on aviation or other industries and activities post-vaccination.”
“Our advice remains that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks in the majority of people. It is still vitally important that people come forward for their vaccination and for their second dose when invited to do so.,” Dr Branch continued.
“We ask anyone who suspects they have experienced a side effect linked with their COVID-19 vaccine to report it to the Coronavirus Yellow Card website.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.