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Squawks & HeadlinesRyanair sues pilot who made allegations about safety on TV

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Ryanair sues pilot who made allegations about safety on TV

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Ryanair has initiated High Court defamation proceedings against a pilot who appeared in a documentary which made allegations about its safety practices. The airline on Aug. 22 began the action against Captain John Goss in the High Court in Dublin, lawyer Paul Tweed of Johnson solicitors said in a statement, reported irishtimes.com. The move follows the broadcast last week of a Channel 4 Dispatches programme which claimed Ryanair pilots were being put under pressure to fly with minimum fuel… (airguideonline.com) More...

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WALLACE24
WALLACE24 1
I get the "firing". I don't get the suing. Ridiculous.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
With their pristine safety record and the pilot's questionable motivations to mischaracterize the airline's safety record, will likely result in a hefty judgment against the pilot and the TV station. Ironically the statements may have the opposite of the intended effect, and highlight RyanAir safety record, which ironically is much better than some mainline European airlines (which have had numerous fatal crashes over the years).
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
There is great reputational damage, if there are false and damaging statements made on a TV documentary program that portray the company in a false light, they have a not just s right to sue for damages, but a duty to do so to protect the company or the passengers and crew members that want to fly and count on the jobs made available by such flying.

The suit is a move that shows strength. Not to sue would indicate that the statements were accepted and true.

But suing does have one paradoxical effect. There is opportunity to air RyanAir's dirty laundry safety wise in any trial to determine if the statements about the airline's safety are true. But at least there is a formal and public inquiry into the airline's safety record.

The problem for the fired pilot and the TV station, if any of his statements are shown to be untrue, particularly with the cross motivation and history of bad-blood, is that the damages can be huge.

The flip-side is if RyanAir has an underlying safety problem, it will come to light in a vigorous defense against the suit.
canuck44
John Donaldson 1
Maybe...but then on the other hand if his pilot group backs him up this may well swing the other way. The rules in Irish courts are much different than the USA, but still should allow for thorough discovery and probably a counter-suit for the firing. Loser pays will be in effect in either case unlike American courts where everyone gets to take a free cheap shot.
WALLACE24
WALLACE24 1
Employees talk trash about their employer all the time (before and after termination). Here in the US it would be perceived to be a big ol' mean corporation beating up on a poor individual. They would have little to gain and a lot to loose. If I sued everyone who told lies about my old company I would spend my whole retirement in court. Lol
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
If the bulk of the defense is that a handful of planes have had to declare an emergency, and land with a 25 minute or so fuel reserve (short of the 30 minute limit for declaring a fuel emergency per company policy and the minimum required fuel reserve) that won't seem so bad, nor particularly unsafe.

On the other hand comparing RyanAir's fatality-free 29-year safety record against other European mainline carriers numerous crashed with fatalities will leave RyanAir smelling like roses.

While having uncertainty in terms of job security may not make for the best employment situation from an employee perspective; it may keep pilots on their toes, more alert, less complacent, and make for better safety results from a passenger and crew fatality perspective.

There may not be a connection between unionization and safety. Or worse, there may be an inverse relationship, in which unionization and job security, may lead to worse safety results (at least in developed Europe.)
Musketeer1
Musketeer1 1
25, 30 and even 45 minutes of fuel remaining is too little. I don't agree with the defector pilots methods, but I do believe that RyanAir is very lucky to have the record it does. It won't last.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Oh I see what you mean.

But one employee mouthing off individually or even several employees individually, is not that same as an employee with an known ax to grind (about unionization) who goes on the record on video for a TV documentary to make defamatory statements that create large amounts of damage to that employer.

The only defense will be truth. If they can show that the pilot made any untrue statements, together with the motive for animus, and the widely broadcast TV program, creates large damage, but also large damage awards.

RyanAir may not ever bother going to trial. They probably prefer not to show the sausage making to the flying public. They may get all the benefit they need as an antidote to the statements made in the TV program to get several news cycles about the pilot's contradictions with recent written certification, and the airline's claims of ring wronged b false statements and news that they are planning a suit.

Beyond that, if they can point out any clearly false statements by the pilot, they can probably get the TV station and their insurance co to settle. Clearly false statements together with the existing motivation would make for a strong case. No TV station nor any insurance company want to litigate a losing case and ion themselves up to a very large award of damages. The size of RyanAir's business together with the wide distribution of the false message, would create the possibility for a very large award.

RyanAir wins with a settlement and smallish payment (which is perceived as de facto admission of guilt). RyanAir wins all around, with bad news and good news. They win with all publicity about their low fares (even in the documentary). Then they win when additional news cycles cover the impending suit, as well as win in the news from a vindication from a settlement. Plus they'd likely get a small payment that that'll at least pay for their lawyers and maybe a little extra. But where they really win is in selling even more fares.

Win-win-win.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
After 29 years, it's got to be more than luck. Even if they eventually have an incident someday, then they'll just be like other major European airlines that also have had incident(s).

I understand passengers wanting a different service level and/or crew wanting job security.

But maybe, they've figured out one way to get great safety results. Not having job security may have the paradoxical effect of creating more attentive pilots and greater safety. I understand there's an argument that happy employees with job security will result in better safety. It may be right, but it may be wrong.

RyanAir's record suggests that premise is not as unquestionable as one might've otherwise believed.
WALLACE24
WALLACE24 1
IMHO Ryan has already won. They fired their problem with just cause. People make false statements knowingly all the time. Ever listen to the crap politicians put out? CEO's? A little free advertising may be the strategy though with no intention of ever going to court. Time will tell.
Musketeer1
Musketeer1 1
I agree with you in a way. Something like tenure for professors and teachers is completely bullshit. Being threatened as a PIC to take less fuel, or look the other way on an MEL item is not going to increase safety, though. I'm just glad I'm free enough to have the choice not to work for them.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
> "Being threatened as a PIC to take less fuel, or look the other way on an MEL item is not going to increase safety, though."

That's certainly true.

Except if the pilot already has the fuel to taxi, to fly to destination airport, plus any alternates, plus any wx extra that would be prudent to carry given the conditions that day at the airports in question, plus the extra 30 minutes reserve. If fuel emergencies are few and far between, landing with nearly 30 minutes of fuel each time, only after missed approaches with bad weather and diverting to an alternate airport with lots of ATC traffic, that is understand able.

Also, except if the MELs are not safety related. That is, MEL would not prevent the airplane to safely arrive with passengers at intended destination or be able to safely land at an alternate airport.

If there are any real safety issues, they'll all come to light in an eventual trial to defend against the suit.

So it may not be advisable for the company to bring suit if has dirty laundry safety-wise that it would prefer not to air publicly.