Libel settlement ‘vindicates’ Ryanair safety, says O’Leary
Airline resolves proceedings against publishers of Daily Mail and Irish Daily Mail
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary: Ryanair had sued over articles based on a television documentary programme that claimed to reveal safety and fuel issues at the airline. Photograph: Bertil Enevag Ericson/Scanpix/Reuters
The aviation boss and his senior pilot were both at the High Court in Belfast for the resolution of proceedings against the publishers of the Daily Mail and Irish Daily Mail.
Ryanair had sued over articles based on a television documentary programme that claimed to reveal safety and fuel issues at the airline.
As part of the confidential settlement, a statement was read out by the newspapers’ publishers acknowledging Ryanair aircraft fully complied with EU safety rules during three fuel emergency landings.
Mr O’Leary said: “We are very pleased that the Mail has acted promptly to set the record straight in relation to our safety standards - time was of the essence.
“We employ 9,500 aviation professionals, and today’s settlement vindicates the quality of work they do in delivering what the IAA (Irish Aviation Authority) has confirmed is one of the safest airlines in Europe.”
He vowed to press ahead with separate legal action against Channel 4 over its Dispatches documentary. “Those matters will continue against other parties who have also questioned our safety record,” the airline chief insisted.
Defamation proceedings were brought against Associated Newspapers Ltd and Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd over an article which appeared last month in the Irish Daily Mail and the Mail Online.
After being told today that the action had been settled, Mr Justice Gillen approved a statement to be read out in court by Michael Kealey, the defendants’ legal manager in Ireland. It detailed how the article referred to claims made by a body describing itself as a Ryanair Pilot Group and other allegations broadcast in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme.
“Ryanair does not accept the results of the survey conducted by the interim council of this group, whose chairman is a KLM pilot, or that the group represents the views of the majority of Ryanair’s pilots,” Mr Kealey said.
Three fuel emergency landings in Valencia in July 2012 were also mentioned. “We accept that the official report produced by the Irish safety agencies confirmed that all three aircraft took on extra fuel, (and) all three aircraft flew for over one hour more than planned due to adverse weather and diversions from Madrid to Valencia,” the statement continued.
“All three aircraft fully complied with EU safety rules when landing safely in Valencia.”
Mr Kealey added: “Ryanair has made clear that if pilots have legitimate safety concerns they should report them either directly to Ryanair, or to the Irish Aviation Authority, using their confidential safety reporting systems.
“We also accept the recent confirmation issued by the independent Irish Aviation Authority that ‘Ryanair’s safety is on a par with the safest airlines in Europe’ and acknowledge Ryanair’s 29 year safety record.”
The airline’s chief pilot, Captain Ray Conway, also expressed satisfaction with the “comprehensive vindication and acknowledgment” of Ryanair’s safety record.
He said: “While I am unable to make specific comments concerning our ongoing legal proceedings regarding Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, I wish to emphasise that Ryanair cannot and will not tolerate what were totally unjustified and inappropriate allegations in relation to our industry leading safety.
“Safety has been, and will always be, the absolute priority for Ryanair.”
Mr O’Leary’s solicitor Paul Tweed, senior partner with the Johnsons law firm, said: “My client acknowledges and appreciates the prompt and comprehensive manner in which the Mail have acted to set the record straight in relation to the reporting of what were totally false and misleading statements, originating from a Channel 4 Dispatches programme which remains the subject of ongoing litigation.
“We are continuing to vigorously pursue Channel 4 in relation to their outrageous defamatory broadcast which sought to undermine our client’s internationally acknowledged safety record spanning three decades.”