Ryanair ‘seriously defamed’ in article questioning safety record - judge
Ryanair was seriously defamed in “a grossly false and misleading internet article questioning the company’s safety and maintenance record,” a judge said today.
Judge Gerard Griffin, awarding the airline €50,000 damages against Global Wings Publications which trades as Air-Scoop.com and the website’s German owner, Joachim Kleinert, said the article deliberately meant to suggest that flying with Ryanair was unsafe.
“The clear evidence I have been furnished with today reveals total compliance by Ryanair with safety regulations associated with maintenance and fuelling conditions as laid down by the Irish Aviation Authority,” Judge Griffin said.
He told barrister Martin Hayden, S.C., that he would grant Ryanair an order directing that the article be removed from the website and prohibiting the further publication of any defamatory material.
Mr Hayden, who appeared with Catherine Duplaa for the airline, told the Circuit Civil Court the article first came to the company’s attention when certain unfounded allegations had been lifted from the website and published in a Belgium newspaper.
He said Ryanair obtained judgment in default of appearance against both defendants but the company’s lawyers, Philip Lee Solicitors, had to seek judicial leave to serve the Civil Bill and notice of judgment against them by way of the internet.
Judge Griffin said he had heard from Ryanair’s Chief Pilot, Ray Conway, that 98.98 per cent of their planes carried fuel in excess of requirements and fuel reserves as laid down under aviation regulations. Chief engineer Derek Quinn had also told him aircraft engines were maintained by General Electric who manufactured them.
“I am satisfied the intended ordinary meaning of the article published on the internet was to suggest flying with Ryanair was unsafe,” Judge Griffin said. “I will award €40,000 damages for defamation and a further €10,000 by way of aggravated damages for continuing to keep the article on the website.”
He told Mr Hayden he was satisfied the defendants were fully aware of the legal proceedings taken by Ryanair and that they had decided not to come to court or engage with them in any way.
Judge Griffin said the grossly false, misleading and defamatory article had been put up in 2011 and had remained on the website until today.
Mr Hayden said the defamatory article included false allegations that Ryanair’s fleet, which was one of - if not the - youngest in the world, was overused and crews were overworked or stretched to their limits and that safety and maintenance procedures were reduced or ignored to save money. It had also falsely suggested the airline skimped on fuel loads.
Ryanair’s head of communications Robin Kiely told the court that Ryanair had an exceptional safety record and the most damaging statement one could make about any airline was to suggest otherwise.
Mr Hayden said the address of Global Wings Publications was unknown and Philip Lee Solicitors would have to take steps in the United States to identify the whereabouts of the company. Kleinert’s address was stated to be Kernerstraffe, Stuttgart, Germany.