Saturday 20 January 2018

Ryanair sues trade unions over safety comments

Ryanair's Michael O'Leary
Ryanair's Michael O'Leary

RYANAIR says public comments made by pilots' spokesman Evan Cullen about how its fuel policy allegedly affects its safety practices were defamatory, the High Court heard.

The airline is suing the IMPACT trade union and its branch, the Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA), along with IALPA president Mr Cullen, arising out of a radio interview and a newspaper article last year.

It claims the defamation arose out of comments made by Mr Cullen in an RTE News at One  interview on August 16, 2012,  and in a Sunday Times article the following month.

The radio interview and newspaper story dealt with claims that the Spanish consumer association had accused Ryanair of jeopardising passenger safety after three of its planes made 'may day' emergency landings on the same day in July 2012 at Valencia airport.

Mr Cullen claimed in the radio interview the pilots involved had to issue Mayday distress calls seeking to land because of low fuel and this was attributed to an environment in which Ryanair made its pilots feel uncomfortable about taking on extra fuel for a flight.

Ryanair says Mr Cullen used the phrase "Mayday" in its technical sense to give the wrong impression when he knew or should have known it did not apply in those instances and did not reflect the actual situation.

It also claims the broadcast and publication falsely meant the aircraft involved were in imminent danger as Ryanair pilots were not allowed to take extra fuel when they were expecting to go into a holding position while waiting for clearance to land.

It also says the broadcast falsely suggested that Ryanair's operation of a "fuel league table", based on how much pilots fuel are taking with them for a flight, this drives pilots to do things they are not comfortable with.

Ryanair claims the suggestion that pilots at the bottom of the "league table" received letters from the airline telling them their performance was being watched is defamatory.

The defendants deny the claims and say the broadcast and article were true in substance and fact.

Yesterday, Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley was asked by Ryanair to order disclosure, or discovery, of documents the defendants have which the airline says it needs for its pending defamation action.

Martin Hayden SC, for Ryanair, said the airline required 28 categories of documents in order to be able to take its action and deal with this "campaign of innuendo" against his client.

The hearing continues.

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