Ryanair issues defamation proceedings against the Guardian and a pilots union - reports

Caitlin Morrison
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Ryanair has been in the middle of a media storm over flight cancellations (Source: Getty)

Irish airline Ryanair is said to be suing pilots union IALPA and the Guardian for defamation, as it continues to deal with the scheduling crisis that has led to hundreds of flights being cancelled.

Responding to reports from a local journalist that Ryanair was taking legal action against both parties, a spokesperson for the budget airline said: "We don’t comment on pending legal matters, however we will issue legal proceedings against any media or unions which publish false claims about our safety."

However, the Guardian said it was not subject to any legal proceedings by Ryanair, although it has been contacted by the airline.

"We have not been served with defamation proceedings. We have received a letter of complaint which we are looking into," a spokesperson for the Guardian News & Media said.

IALPA has been contacted for comment.

Rare apology

Chief executive Michael O'Leary apologised to shareholders and passengers at today's annual general meeting for the disruption to flights caused by a backlog of crew leave: staff have so much holiday left to take in the final quarter that the airline is struggling to fill rotas.

The company revealed last weekend that it would have to cancel up to 50 flights per day over a six week period, and O'Leary has estimated the debacle will cost Ryanair €25m (£22m) in compensation payouts and other costs.

O'Leary said a possible solution to the problems could be to force 500 pilots to change their holiday plans in order to avoid further disruption.

He also said Ryanair is planning to recruit 125 new pilots over the next two weeks, as well as increasing pay.

However, analysts were not wholly convinced by the outspoken airline boss' proposed methods of atonement.

Dual threat

"The damage is growing beyond the cancelled flights – there appears to be a dual threat to Ryanair’s model beyond the reputational damage and upfront compensation costs," warned Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital.

"The cancellation fiasco has created a window for pilots to assert themselves and they appear determined to take full advantage."

Wilson said that while reputational damage is "clearly a factor" it is a lot harder to assess and quantify, "and it may take some time for the true impact of the debacle to be known".

Ryanair's 'Always Getting Better' turnaround plan has been set back, Wilson said, adding: "Reputational damage is all relative – Ryanair never really had a fantastic reputation for customer service. What has investors concerned is that costs look set to rise and profits fall."

Bad timing

Meanwhile, Jasper Lawler at London Capital Group, said the timing of this week's crisis could not have been much worse for Ryanair, given that it "had been making reputational gains against rival EasyJet at a time of uncertainty surrounding the Open Skies agreement".

"The setback could cost precious summer bookings next season," Lawler added.

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