You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots

Staff memo warns that signing letter airing safety fears would be ‘gross misconduct’

Ryanair pilots have been warned not to sign a letter to airline regulators expressing concern that the airline’s employment practices could jeopardise passenger safety.

In a memo staff were told they would be guilty of “gross misconduct” and “liable for dismissal” if they signed the letter to the Irish Aviation Authority that regulates Ryanair. The letter was drawn up by the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG), which represents captains and co-pilots working for the airline but is not recognised by the company.

It warned that the “confusing, uncertain and unpredictable employment situation” at Ryanair was becoming “an increasing distraction in daily flight operations”. It added that it was causing “stress and worry” for pilots and had implications for safety.

Ryanair responded to the letter by warning that any pilot who signed it could be dismissed. “If the Ryanair Pilot Group want to make inaccurate or false claims about non-safety issues they are free to do so, but we will not allow Ryanair’s safety to be defamed by this pilots’ union,” the airline’s chief pilot Ray Conway wrote.

“Please note that any Ryanair pilot who participates in this so-called safety petition will be guilty of gross misconduct and will be liable for dismissal.”

The RPG organised the letter amid concerns that the airline was making the majority of its pilots self-employed. Under the scheme, pilots sign a contract binding them to fly exclusively for Ryanair – but not as employees.

The pilots are then paid for the work they do but have to pay for all their own expenses, including uniforms, identity cards, transport and hotel accommodation. The contracted pilots have no pension scheme or medical insurance unless they set it up themselves.

One Ryanair pilot said that the company was protected because they could claim that pilots had a legal and moral obligation not to fly if they do not think they are capable. But they added: “People are human and if you’re not going to be paid [if you don’t fly] you might think ‘I can do this, I’m fine. I’ll just get on with it’. You should not have a safety culture based on fear.”

David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flight International magazine and an expert on aviation, said:“Ryanair are pushing their luck on human factors when they employ pilots like a warlord employs mercenaries. There is the worry that if they are self-employed that might place additional pressures on them to work even if, for any number of reasons, they might not feel entirely fit to do so.”

The RPG has now written to the Irish Aviation Authority, which regulates Ryanair, to express its concerns over the memo. “[We are] extremely concerned by some of the rhetoric used in this memo and also by the implicit attempt to constrain the reporting of safety related concerns,” they said in a letter to Kevin Humphreys, Director of Safety Regulation.

“Voicing concerns about safety and petitioning any government agency about those concerns is legal, necessary and in line with every pilot’s legal obligations to report those kinds of concerns when they arise.”

The Independent revealed the poor conditions faced by Ryanair’s cabin crew, who are made to take three months unpaid leave a year, not paid to be on call, and have to pay £360 for their uniform.

In response to the latest allegations, a Ryanair spokesman said: “We do not comment on anonymous, unsigned letters from internet trolls funded by the European Cockpit Association.” He added it was “rubbish” that contract pilots might feel under pressure to work even if they were ill.

“Contract pilots regularly report in sick when they feel they are not fit to fly and we maintain a daily roster for standby pilots for precisely this reason,” he said. “This false claim was previously investigated and dismissed by the Irish Aviation Authority.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services & Office / Accounts Administrator

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This online retailer of electronic acces...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy