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Thursday 18 September 2014

‘Sent to Siberia’ Ryanair pilot has claim thrown out

Published 30/01/2014 | 10:56

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Airline Pilot Morgan Fischer pictured outside the Employment Appeals Tribunal
Airline Pilot Morgan Fischer pictured outside the Employment Appeals Tribunal

A FORMER Ryanair pilot who claims he was treated unreasonably harshly by the company when it transferred him to Lithuania from his base in the south of France has lost his unfair dismissal claim against the budget airline.

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Captain Morgan Fischer (45), an American who is currently based in Miami, Florida as a pilot for American Airlines, launched an unfair dismissal claim against Ryanair, claiming he was constructively dismissed when he was “sent to Siberia” on reduced pay following the closure of the airline's base in Marseilles in the south of France in October 2010.

He was one of 25 pilots and co-pilots working at the French base required to transfer to other European bases after Ryanair closed down the hub following a dispute with French authorities.

Capt Fischer resigned from the airline after he was offered a transfer to Kaunas, Lithuania, a distance of 2,000km away from his previous post that included a €16,000 reduction in his gross annual salary of approximately €125,000, the tribunal heard.

The pilot, who worked for Ryanair for five years, did not nominate a preferred base for transfer, claiming he

was unaware he was required to do so.

He also claimed the company acted unreasonably when he requested five days of paid leave and moving expenses to move from his former home in Aix-en-Provence near Marseilles to Lithuania.

But following four days of hearings last February and November – including a hearing on November 12 attended by Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary – the Employment Appeals Tribunal found that Capt Fischer did not have a case under either the Unfair Dismissals Act nor the Redundancy Payments Act.

In its ruling issued this month, the tribunal found that Capt Fischer did not stake his claim for a preferred base for transfer unlike other pilots whose jobs were lost and “consequently was offered Kaunas as an alternative”.

Noting that Capt Fischer did not want to sign a new contract on lesser pay, “the reality is that different bases have different pay levels. This is very clearly set out in the contract,” the tribunal ruled, adding that the job at Kaunas was offered to him “because he never sought an alternative as he should have done.

“To complain about being sent to Timbuktu in circumstances where other options were clearly available to him but were not availed of by him is not a sustainable argument,” the tribunal found.

“It appears that the claimant, in effect, wished to re-write his contract on his terms and ignore what he had signed up to when he joined the respondent company (Ryanair). Not surprisingly, this was not an option.”

Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely, meanwhile said “we note and welcome this ruling.”

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