'It was horrible' - Irish student on overbooked Spain flight felt 'so bad' leaving others behind

Leigha Plunkett.

A 16-year-old Irish student who was travelling on the same Iberia Airlines flight that prevented a 15-year-old Spanish student from boarding has said that she was "overwhelmed" by the ordeal at Dublin Airport on Wednesday.

Leigha Plunkett from Co Cavan said that she and Spanish student Ameal were two of four people who were chosen "at random" to wait on standby at the departure gate to board the Iberia Airlines flight to Spain.

As the two waited with two other adult passengers to board the aircraft, Leigha said both minors were told by a member of staff: "I need to choose one of you to get on the plane", as only one seat was available. Leigha was chosen to fly.

She was travelling with another exchange student from Madrid named Alba who was staying with Leigha's family in Co Cavan.

Both girls' tickets were bought together and they were due to sit next to each other on the aircraft. Leigha, whose first time it was travelling without her family, was to spend two weeks in Madrid with Alba's family to improve her Spanish.

The 6.05am flight from Dublin Airport was booked by Leigha's mother Peggy in October. However, when they arrived at the check-in desk they were told that the flight had been overbooked by eight passengers and that Leigha would be on standby at the departure gate.

She was given the option of taking an alternative flight to Heathrow the following day where she would then have to catch a connecting flight to Madrid.

She decided to try to board the Dublin to Madrid flight that she had been booked onto and rushed to the departure gate, and was eventually allowed to board.

Her mother Peggy told us:

I didn't even get to say goodbye to my child with the panic to get her to the gate.

When Leigha got to the gate, everyone else boarded the plane, including a group of 50 Spanish children.

She said that the reason she was chosen to board the aircraft was that her luggage had already been checked onto the flight.

"It was really overwhelming because on one hand I was relieved to be getting on the plane but on the other, I felt bad because I was leaving behind the Spanish boy (Ameal) who couldn't get on," she said.

"I didn't even think to turn around to say anything to him because it was all so overwhelming."

Compilation of Leigha's Snapchat recordings as she took to the platform to highlight what had happened at the airport.

Peggy said that her daughter was very upset about leaving Spanish student Ameal behind.

"She was so upset that the boy didn't get on the plane. It wasn't 'Oh great I'm on the plane now' because she knew how upset the boy was," she said.

Leigha, who has since landed safely in Madrid, said that she suffers from eczema and that stress brings out the condition where patches of skin become inflamed and itchy.

"I've eczema all over my face after it," she told us.

Leigha did not know what had happened to Ameal after departing Dublin Airport and so she said it was brilliant to find out that he made it to Spain in the end.

"I have a Snapchat vlog where I had been talking about what happened and one of my followers sent me the story about the boy," she said.

In her Snapchat recordings, she said that she "felt so bad" after she had been chosen to board the plane, leaving the others in the airport.

"It was horrible, it was actually horrible," she said.

"It was such a weird emotion...What if he had chosen the boy over me and I was in that situation? I don't ever want to be in that situation again.

Iberia Airlines has been contacted for comment.

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