In the UK The Sunday Times has published an apology to the low fare high fee airline Ryanair for false allegations made about its fuel policy and alleged safety breaches in Spanish airspace.

A summary of that apology reads as follows:

An article (headlined “Ryanair accused of 1,201 safety violations”, Travel, September 23, 2012) stated that, according to a leaked report from the Spanish air safety agency (AESA), Ryanair planes broke safety rules 1,201 times in Spanish airspace in the first six months of 2012. We now accept that this was incorrect; there was no such report and Ryanair did not commit 1,201 breaches of safety rules.

In the same article we also reported three emergency landings that arose due to bad weather diversions from Madrid to Valencia on July 26, 2012. The article described these flights as having insufficient fuel to remain in holding patterns and reported claims that Ryanair was routinely abusing the mayday protocol to jump landing queues. We accept that all these allegations were untrue and apologise to Ryanair for the damage caused by this article.

The rest of it is behind a paywall, so if you care to subscribe you can help the newspaper make a handsome donation to a children’s charity as its chosen resolution of the Ryanair action, which was otherwise headed to court.

Plane Talking was encouraged, even harangued, to run those allegations but knew they were wrong for reasons touched on in an earlier post.

There are abundant reasons to like what Ryanair does, and abundant reasons to criticise some of the outrageously over the top things it also does, which have been conveniently admitted to and fiercely defended by its never dull CEO Michael O’Leary.

This included standing room loadings in its 737s, criticism of seat belts, proposals for pay toilets, and blow jobs for passengers in a proposed trans Atlantic low cost venture which has yet to occur but sure made huge headlines in Germany when O’Leary explained how it would differ, somewhat, from flying Lufthansa from Frankfurt to New York City.

There is no need to invent stuff to turn the spotlight on Ryanair, which is after all, what it wants.

But the fabrication of material, which crossed the line from an intelligent discussion about fuel policies, to a rabid attack on the airline, is now going to cost serious money.  It could also cost those who posted such material in discussion forums serious money, since anonymity is no protection from litigation if you say something that is untrue and damaging to another party.

The key to nailing a grievance is to go for self incrimination, and legal privilege. If the head of an airline, or government regulator, says something daft, archive it, publish it, discuss it, and invite him, her or it to defend or expand upon the position taken.

There are a number of unanswered questions and promises left over from 2012 when it comes to Australian carriers too. This isn’t going to be a dull year by any measure.

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