Ryanair sues a former pilot over safety claims made on Dutch TV
RYANAIR is suing a former pilot for defamation over remarks which the airline alleges wrongly meant it compromises the lives and safety of its passengers.
Ian Somner is defending his actions, arguing what he said was "honest opinion" pertaining to a matter of public interest - the alleged "adverse effect" of Ryanair's corporate culture on passenger safety.
He is also claiming it is true to state the corporate culture, management structure and the way Ryanair deals with its staff jeopardises the safety of passengers by placing pilots under abnormal stress and pressure.
Ryanair, he claims, reacts in a "very aggressive and angry" manner to any perception of criticism so pilots are fearful to raise issues. He further claims it is true the chances of being involved in a serious incident or accident on Ryan- air are greater than on other airlines and it is an airline that should be avoided.
He denies Ryanair's claim that his remarks, made in a Dutch TV programme, meant or could be understood to mean a serious incident or accident on Ryanair "is inevitable".
Among various matters in his defence, he alleges there was a "potential disaster scenario" at Spain's Valencia airport on July 26, 2012, in which three Ryanair planes declared a "fuel Mayday" because their pilots feared they could not land without going below the legally required level of final reserve fuel.
That came about as a direct result of a "culture" within Ryanair of prioritising fuel efficiency even at the expense of passenger safety, he claims.
Ryanair encourages its pilots not to carry extra fuel on flights because its additional weight will lead to increased fuel consumption, he alleges.
Mr Somner's counsel, Rossa Fanning, said his client contends Ryanair operates a "fuel burn league" listing the individual fuel consumption of each of its captains, ranking at the bottom those considered to use "too much" fuel while complimenting those at the top.
The defamation case against Mr Somner, with an address in Edinburgh, arises from remarks by him during a two-part TV documentary entitled Mayday! Mayday! broadcast on the internet by KRO on December 28, 2012, and January 3, 2013.
Mr Somner worked as a pilot with Ryanair between 2004 and 2011 in London and Edinburgh.
Ryanair claims he was certified medically unfit to fly in February 2011 and it paid him 129 days' sick pay until he resigned in September 2011.