Ryanair is suing The Sun in the UK after it repeated claims made on a Dutch TV program that its fuel policies were a risk to the safety of flight.
There is no doubt that if the case is brought to trial Ryanair will also win a verdict, and thus damages, from the British media giant, setting up what might become a classic illustration of the dangers of defaming people or companies on line, whether anonymously or as an identified source.
The case arose after a spike in the number of instances of Ryanair flights declaring fuel emergencies last year in its European services, including three on the one stormy day over Spain, and claims in various forums and other public media that its pilots were being intimidated into carrying only the minimum fuel needed to legally conduct a trip between two cities in good weather conditions.
However by definition Ryanair wasn’t doing anything that was either unsafe or illegal, and the The Sun as a consequence is in all sorts of bother.
A fair summary of the allegations, the truth of the regulatory obligations Ryanair was meeting in full, and its own apparently benevolent indulgence of pilots seeking to load more than minimum fuel when they judge this to be necessary, is published this week by the MailOnLine, just possibly with a sense of relish at the pickle its competitor The Sun is now in.
Seen from here, the whole issue is a reminder that important discussions about such things as fuel policies need to be mindful as to whether the airline, or safety regulator, is conforming to the law, or the intent of the law in what they respectively do or require the operators to do.
The best way to do this is to report legally privileged documents such as those generated in submissions to Parliamentary inquiries or in ATSB reports.
The current row is different from that involving Ryanair and the Aviation Herald, which involved the latter reporting an inquiry into a Ryanair approach to an airport in Germany by that country’s aviation safety authority. Ryanair got that all wrong, and withdrew its threats of legal action against the small aviation safety site.
And Ryanair has never expressed any displeasure with Plane Talking suggesting that its CEO Michael O’Leary may have gone bonkers, since we have the photos, and a portfolio of reports and videos of bizarre press conferences in which the ‘aviation antichrist’ has done everything possible to persuade the media that he is in fact insane, or vulgar, or whatever else it takes to generate as much publicity for the low fare high fee carrier as possible.
We have questioned why Ryanair should do such things when in fact it is outstandingly useful and thus successful in connecting dozens of European city pairs with non-stop flights that are much faster than the services dinosaurs like British Airways, Air France and Lufthansa offer through their major hubs for more than twice the flying time and several times the price (but with lower or zero cost extras.)
Which means we will continue to question the ‘lunacy’ while hoping it continues.