Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ryanair's lawyers write to TDs ahead of meeting with pilots association

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary Picture: Frank McGrath
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary Picture: Frank McGrath

Niall O'Connor

Lawyers for Ryanair have written to TDs and senators ahead of a planned appearance tomorrow of an association representing pilots, which will be quizzed over the recent controversies that have embroiled the airline.

The Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) is scheduled to appear in front of the Oireachtas Transport Committee to discuss their working hours and other welfare issues.

It was reported last week that some Ryanair pilots have sought to take measures in a bid to improve their terms and conditions.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has already declined an invitation to appear in front of the committee in a move that has been questioned by Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy.

But Independent.ie can reveal that the legal firm run by Paul Tweed wrote to the committee today ahead of the scheduled appearance by the IALPA.

The firm told TDs and senators that Ryanair has brought a number of defamation cases against individual IALPA members and the IALPA itself.

“We understand that the committee advises witnesses to ‘avoid any comments about an issue that is currently before a court of law, or about which court proceedings are imminent, because comments could prejudice the jury or judge in the case,’” the letter states.

“We are drawing this to the attention of the Joint Committee in order to pre-empt any risk of prejudice to the ongoing legal proceedings between Ryanair and the IALPA,” it adds.

In his own letter yesterday, Mr O’Leary has pledged to avoid public appearances over the coming months as he moves to repair the damage caused by the recent controversy surrounding flight cancellations.

Ryanair has been under fire after last Wednesday's cancellation of 18,000 flights, affecting potentially 400,000 passengers.

He said that Ryanair would move to repair the "management failure" within its pilot rostering department that led to severe disruption.

"I regret to advise that I will not be available to take up your invitation to meet with the committee on Wednesday, October 4, as all of our management time and attention will be devoted to minimising the impact of our recently announced flight cancellations upon our customers," Mr O'Leary wrote.

"Neither I nor Ryanair will be taking on any speaking or outside engagements over the coming weeks and months while we devote all of our time and attention to repairing this pilot rostering failure and to ensure it never recurs.

"Please pass on my sincere apologies to the committee members, but I hope they will understand that the needs of our customers ... must take priority at this time."

Mr O'Leary said customers affected would be re-accommodated or given refunds.

He pointed out that more than 97pc of Ryanair's scheduled early-morning departures operated on time last week.

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