RYANAIR boss Michael O'Leary has said the safety record of his airline has been vindicated after the carrier settled a legal action over claims in a newspaper that some pilots had concerns that a fuel policy may have put passengers at risk.
"Any airline can only survive on reputation of safety," said Mr O'Leary outside Belfast High Court.
"It is one of the safest industries generally and as the Irish Aviation Authority has confirmed Ryanair's safety is on a par with the safest airlines in Europe – not the average but with the safest.
"Generally speaking we are content to allow the media or anybody else to make whatever claims they want but not inaccurate claims about our safety.
"We must and will continue to vigorously defend our outstanding safety record."
The terms of the settlement with Associated Newspapers, which owns the 'Irish Daily Mail', were confidential.
Mr O'Leary declined to disclose if any damages were awarded over the article that was published by the newspaper last month.
In court, Mr Justice Gillen allowed a lawyer for Associated Newspapers, Michael Kealey, to read a brief statement.
Mr Kealey said the publisher accepted Ryanair's 29-year safety record and that the airline had complied fully with EU regulations.
He said: "A recent article about Ryanair referred to claims made by a group describing itself as a Ryanair Pilot Group and other claims broadcast in a Channel 4 'Dispatches' programme.
"Ryanair does not accept the results of the survey conducted by the interim council of this group, whose chairman is a KLM pilot, or that the group represents the views of the majority of Ryanair's pilots.
"In relation to the three fuel emergency landings in Valencia over 12 months ago on July 26 we accept that the official report produced by the Irish safety agencies confirmed that all three aircraft took on extra fuel, all three aircraft flew for over one hour more than planned (due to adverse weather and diversions from Madrid to Valencia).
"All three aircraft fully complied with EU safety rules when landing safely in Valencia."
The statement also acknowledged that if Ryanair pilots had safety concerns they were told to report them.
Mr Kealey added: "Ryanair has made clear that if pilots have legitimate safety concerns they should report them either directly to Ryanair, or to the Irish Aviation Authority, using their confidential safety reporting systems. We also accept the recent confirmation issued by the independent Irish Aviation Authority that Ryanair's safety is on a par with the safest airlines in Europe.
"We acknowledge Ryanair's 29-year safety record and, as we reported, the company's full compliance with EU requirements."
Libel lawyer Paul Tweed, acting for Ryanair, said the airline was seeking to have an action against Channel 4 listed before the High Court in Dublin as soon as possible.
Ryanair chief pilot Ray Conway said he was satisfied with the outcome of the case.
He added: "I wish to emphasise that Ryanair cannot and will not tolerate what were totally unjustified and inappropriate allegations in relation to our industry-leading safety."