Social media posts falsely link British Airways pilot deaths to vaccine


A social media post twisted an actual story about the deaths of four British Airways pilots by making an unfounded link to COVID-19 vaccines.

A Facebook post from June 21, now deleted, said: “Airlines are starting to ban people vaccinated after pilots die from the vaccine. The comment below the post read: “4 British Airways pilots who were hit die in a week. However, the airline denies any connection to the hit.”

A similar post on Instagram claims that in a single week, four British Airways pilots and one Delta pilot died and one Canadian pilot lost consciousness on the runway. He also claims that these events were related to the vaccine.

The posts were reported as part of Facebook’s efforts to tackle fake news and disinformation on its news feed. (Learn more about PolitiFact partnership with Facebook.)

The claim regarding British Airways pilots was refuted by Snopes, Stories of lead and Reuters.

The pilots died, but not all of them in a week, and not from the vaccine.

British Airways has rejected a link to COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Sadly, four members of our pilot community have recently passed away. Our hearts go out to their family and friends,” the airline said. wrote on Twitter on June 17. “However, there is no truth to the claims specifying that the four deaths are linked.”

The airline did not disclose the names of the pilots. Three of the pilots were identified by Snopes and other outlets: Captain Nicholas Synnott, Senior First Officer Edward Brice-Bennett, and Senior First Officer Grant Mercer. PolitiFact could not find out the name of the fourth pilot.

No media coverage on these pilots mentions vaccines.

Synnott died in June. He contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 while working in Texas, and he spent eight months receiving care at UT Health and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston. His return to England in December 2020 generated several new stories.

Brice-Bennett died on June 2. A local newspaper, the New Valley News, mentionned he was found unconscious in a mountain bike park in Tidworth, in the south of England. Forty-five minutes later, the newspaper reported, paramedics declared him dead. An autopsy revealed he had internal abdominal bleeding, the journal’s website said.

Mercer died on May 4. Snopes reported that his death was unrelated to a COVID-19 vaccine. His commemorative page raised funds for “the farewell he deserves”. The page said she would donate any money received beyond the fundraising goal to a suicide prevention organization.

The International Air Transport Association, the trade group for the airline industry, said it was not aware of any airlines banning passengers who are vaccinated or planning to do so. This echoes what we found in another fact check of a similar claim.

“We advocate that vaccinated people be free to travel without restriction,” the association told PolitiFact.

Our decision

A Facebook user claimed that the deaths of four British Airways pilots were linked to the COVID-19 vaccine and suggested that airlines ban those vaccinated from traveling.

British Airways said the deaths were unrelated to COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, airlines are not considering banning people who have been vaccinated.

We assess this claim as false.


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