Ryanair claims sensitive information about strike disclosed to Aer Lingus

Court told defence to Ryanair’s damages claim against Fórsa could be undermined

Ryanair DAC, in its main action, claims it suffered millions in lost bookings and from the impact on fares arising from the planned strike. Photograph: iStock

Ryanair DAC, in its main action, claims it suffered millions in lost bookings and from the impact on fares arising from the planned strike. Photograph: iStock

 

Contacts between the pilots’ union president and Aer Lingus in the run-up to the threatened 2019 Ryanair pilots’ strike could undermine a defence to the budget airline’s action for damages against the union Fórsa, the High Court heard on Wednesday.

Ryanair claims that email contacts between Captain Evan Cullen and Mike Rutter, chief operating officer of Aer Lingus, showed confidential sensitive commercial information had been disclosed to Ryanair’s main competitor about impending strike action.

On Wednesday, Ryanair sought an order from the court for further information to be disclosed about such contacts in advance of the airline’s action against Fórsa and a number of pilots, including Capt Cullen.

Aer Lingus opposed the application.

Mr Justice Brian O’Moore said he would give his ruling on the matter on Thursday.

Ryanair DAC, in its main action due to be heard in two weeks, claims it suffered millions in lost bookings and from the impact on fares arising from the planned industrial action.

It also claims it suffered additional damage due to negative publicity and damage to its business and brand.

The claims are denied.

Injunction

In August 2019, Ryanair obtained an injunction which prevented Fórsa, the parent union of pilots’ union Ialpa, from going ahead with a planned 48-hour strike from August 22nd, 2019, in a dispute over pay and conditions.

On Wednesday, in advance of the main case, Ryanair sought what is known as non-party discovery (as Aer Lingus is not being sued) relating to any communication between an Ialpa representative and an Aer Lingus employee. It also sought information on any discussion about negotiations surrounding the industrial action.

Ryanair had claimed the strike would be in breach of an agreement the parties made following a mediation conducted by retired Workplace Relations Commission chairman Kieran Mulvey in 2018. That agreement, the airline claimed, contained an agreed mechanism which it and the union would prosecute their differences.

Ryanair said the request for non-party discovery arose after the defendants had provided documents showing there had been communication between the union and Aer Lingus including about the balloting for strike action. This was before Ryanair or Fórsa’s full-time national officials or Ryanair pilots themselves were aware of that information, it said.

Martin Hayden SC, with Eoin O’Shea BL, for Ryanair, argued that information was of significant commercial importance to Aer Lingus during the summer of 2019.

Further discovery

Emails between Capt Cullen and Mr Rutter of Aer Lingus showed these discussions were taking place and Ryanair sought further discovery in relation to any other discussions there were ongoing.

This identified a base for the suggestion there may be other documentation which would assist Ryanair in presenting its main case or in undermining the defendants’ defence of the action, counsel said.

Alison Keirse BL, for Aer Lingus, said this application for non-party discovery should never have been brought.

Nowhere in the statement of claim were mala fides or lack of bona fides particularised by Ryanair, she said. The communications Ryanair would like to get had nothing to do with the proceedings and there was a real lack of any link to the proceedings, she said.