Thursday 8 December 2016

Former Ryanair pilot claims he lost job after refusing to fly 'undocumented cash' to Dublin

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

Published 07/01/2016 | 10:50

Former Ryanair captain Mark Christensen
Former Ryanair captain Mark Christensen

A FORMER Ryanair pilot claims he lost his job after refusing to carry bags that may have posed a security threat on a flight to Dublin.

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Mark Christensen says he is owed over six months pay after being constructively dismissed following the incident.

He was demoted from the position of captain to first officer after objecting to the "undocumented" cargo.

The pilot, who earned €10,157 a month, is seeking compensation at the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

But Ryanair denied he was dismissed and said he resigned from his position at the tribunal yesterday.

It claimed he was obstructive and uncooperative by refusing to carry the bags, which carried cash takings from passengers, and was a routine occurrence.

Describing the incident, Mr Christensen, who worked for the budget carrier for almost 17 years, said a member of cabin crew dropped the bags on the floor in the cockpit ahead of a flight from Manchester to Dublin in September 2014.

He said she told him they were cash bags, but he refused to carry them when he asked if there was any accompanying paperwork and she said no.

"The critical factor is that there is no safety risk to the aircraft," he said.

"I would assume every captain in every airline would have the same approach."

He said that approach was fundamental to airline safety and his top priority. He said it had become extremely important with recent terrorist attacks, including the discovery of a shoe bomber and the bombing of a Russian aircraft in Egypt.

He denied he was rude or unhelpful.

Mr Christensen said he felt Ryanair managers were "out to get me" during a subsequent investigation. He said there were "raised voices" at a meeting when he denied he did anything wrong.

He said he had no employment for over six months after leaving in October 2014.

Counsel for Ryanair, Ross Aylward, said Mr Christensen was previously a captain, but following a disciplinary procedure became a first officer.

He said he was never dismissed from his role but resigned on October 30 2014.

However, the case was one of constructive dismissal, he said.

He revealed that a captain's monthly pay is €10,157 gross and Mr Christensen was earning €6,778 a month as a first officer when moved down a grade.

He said he refused to carry the bags before checking for documentation, which had been available.

He also told the tribunal that carrying cash from its bases to Dublin or Stansted was standard practice, and that Mr Christensen has previously carried such bags and knew what was in them.

Assistant General Secretary of IMPACT, Michael Landers, said Mr Christensen was seeking six months and 10 days pay.

He said he wanted compensation for pay lost following his dismissal until he got a new job, based in China, on May 10 last year.

The case adjourned until March 8.

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