Teenager checks in for 1,500-mile flight to jail

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The Independent Online

An inquiry has been launched into how a teenager who checked in for a short flight to Manchester airport ended up in the former Soviet Union and was promptly thrown into a prison cell.

Anne Keane's bizarre flight began when she asked an official at Shannon airport in her native Ireland at which gate the Manx flight to Manchester was boarding. However, in the din of the airport lounge the official misheard her and directed her to the Minsk flight, setting her on a 1,500-mile journey to Belarus.

Cabin crew on the Minsk-bound aircraft realised they had one passenger too many but the captain opted to continue the flight and warned police at Minsk of the mistake.

Belarussian officials were less than impressed when Ms Keane, aged 18, arrived there on Wednesday last week with neither a passport nor a visa, accused her of being an illegal immigrant and detained her.

A spokesman for Aer Lingus, the airline which checked her in at Shannon, said yesterday: "Incidents such as this are extremely rare and very regrettable when they occur. As soon as we realised what had happened we did everything in our power to rectify the situation."

He added that Aer Lingus arranged overnight accommodation in Minsk for Ms Keane and then organised a return flight to Manchester.

Ms Keane's trek had taken her on an trip of 12 hours on three flights covering almost 1,500 miles, when all she wanted to do was travel 320 miles from Shannon to Manchester - a hop of less than an hour.

"We have apologised to the passenger and to her family for the incident and arranged flights and accommodation for her family to join her in Manchester," the spokesman said.