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Ryanair pilots reveal serious concerns about passenger safety

More than 90 per cent of pilots surveyed believe Irish and European aviation authorities should investigate the impact of employment practices on safety.

Image: Photocall Ireland

UPDATED at 5.41pm

MORE THAN EIGHT out of ten Ryanair pilots surveyed believe that the airline does not have an “open and transparent safety culture”.

In addition, just over two thirds of the 1,000 captains and first officers who took part in the survey said they didn’t feel comfortable raising safety-related issues through Ryanair’s own internal systems.

The survey was commissioned by The Ryanair Pilot Group, following a memo from Ryanair management saying that pilots who took part in a safety petition might be liable to dismissal.

Full details of the results will be aired in a Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ documentary to be broadcast this evening. Members of the group – which is not recognised by Ryanair, but claims to represent over half of all its pilots – tell the programme their working conditions may have implications for safety.

One pilot told the programme that three quarters of the airline’s pilots are on so-called ‘zero hours’ contracts, meaning they can only work for Ryanair but they have no guaranteed hours of work. Speaking anonymously, they said:

About 70 per cent of our pilots if not more are on a contract, they get paid only if they fly. So that’s the first pressure. I need to fly in order to make a living.

In April of this year several hundred pilots signed a petition, calling on Irish and European safety regulators to urgently examine the impact of Ryanair’s employment terms on flight safety.

Ryanair management responded by sending a memo which said that “any pilot who participates in this so called petition will be guilty of gross misconduct and will be liable for dismissal”.

Some of the main survey results:

  • More than 8 out of 10 (88.8%) said Ryanair didn’t have an open and transparent safety culture
  • Two thirds (67.4%) of pilots questioned said they didn’t feel comfortable raising safety related issues through Ryanair’s own internal systems
  • More than 90 per cent (93.6%) of pilots that responded, believe that the Irish Aviation Authority and its European counterpart, should investigate the impact of Ryanair’s employment practices on safety
  • Almost 9 out of 10 (89.8%) said Ryanair safety system did not provide them with the appropriate feedback on previous incidents that have occurred in Ryanair
  • Almost all (98.6%) said they do not have access through Ryanair safety channels to details of all of the incidents that Ryanair aircraft have been involved in over the last 29 years

According to Ryanair Pilot Group Interim Chairman Evert van Zwol: “The results of the survey are reason for very great concern and call for immediate action [by] all involved parties, to get working on a solution and lowering these [survey] percentages sharply down.”

TheJournal.ie contacted Ryanair this afternoon for a reaction to the survey results. The following comments, attributed to spokesman Robin Kiely, were sent back in an email:

The Non Ryanair Pilot Group (NRPG )is quite clearly a PR front for pilot trade unions of Ryanair’s competitor airlines.  A so called “survey” fabricated by these ECA pilot unions, which does not have access to or contact with the entire 3,000 plus pilots employed by Ryanair, lacks any independence, objectivity or reliability.  It is another failed attempt by ECA pilot unions to use non-existent safety “concerns” to advance their 25 year failed campaign to win union recognition in Ryanair.

Both Ryanair and the Irish Aviation Authority operate confidential safety reporting systems which allow any Ryanair pilot with any legitimate safety concerns to report these in complete confidentiality – without any fear of reprisal – either through Ryanair’s confidential system or the IAA’s independent and confidential system.

Ryanair’s outstanding 29 year safety record is a matter of rigorous oversight and fact based evidence.  It is not something that can be voted on or subjected to anonymous or fabricated trade union surveys.  It has been rigorously regulated and independently verified by the Irish Aviation Authority, operating to the highest EU safety requirements – and the IAA have recently confirmed that “Ryanair’s safety is on a par with the safest airlines in Europe”.

The Dispatches programme - Ryanair: Secrets from the Cockpit – airs tonight at 8pm on Channel 4, and will be available thereafter on 40D.

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