Cantillon: Ryanair too eager to catch whistleblowers
Ryanair’s policy towards staff who report safety concerns is intriguing
The decision by Ryanair to seek out and neutralise people who have been making comments about its attitude towards safety, while using anonymous postings on the internet, is intriguing.
A key issue in the debate is the culture that exists within the airline in relation to the filing of concerns or complaints about safety, as opposed to the issue of safety itself – though in the end they can end up being close to the same thing.
The argument is that airlines that encourage their staff to report mistakes and matters of concern are more likely to spot and deal with potential safety issues more quickly than airlines where the pilots are worried that raising difficulties within the company could provoke negative responses.
Rooting out the identities of people – presumably some of whom are Ryanair pilots – who make anonymous online postings about the internal operation of the airline, and then going to the High Court to make them apologise and pay money to charity, doesn’t sound like the kind of corporate strategy that engenders a culture of open criticism and debate.
None of which is to question Ryanair’s point that it has had an excellent safety record over the past three decades. And the Irish Aviation Authority was quick to come to Ryanair’s defence after the Channel 4 programme that is now the subject of libel proceedings brought by Ryanair.
“The IAA is disappointed that once again Channel 4 Dispatches has decided to engage in a misguided attack on the regulation of a low-cost carrier, based upon false and misleading information, which may undermine the travelling public’s confidence in civil air transport in Europe which, because of the intensive regulatory regime, remains the safest mode of mass transport,” it said in a statement.
It is just one of 14 paragraphs in a statement in which the authority made clear its satisfaction with Ryanair’s safety record and noted the existence of a system whereby Ryanair employees could confidentially bring matters of concern to the authority’s attention.