Is This The Way To Run An Airline?

BALPA Chairman Captain Mervyn Granshaw reflects on another court case lost by Ryanair.

When Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary decided to take BALPA and the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA) to court to try to force the unions to divulge the names of some of the Ryanair pilots who had posted comments about the company on the website hosted by BALPA and IALPA he could have hardly envisaged receiving such a ringing condemnation of the airline's management practices by Mr Justice Thomas Smyth in the Dublin High Court.

As he read his judgement, for over 2 hours and most of it critical of the ethos of Ryanair, what Mr Justice Thomas Smyth was saying, in effect, was 'this is no way to run an airline.' And nor is it. The judgement is something that the European Commission, the British and Irish governments, the European Air Safety Agency (EASA), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and other agencies ought to read very carefully indeed.

BALPA's position remains clear. We want Ryanair to be as successful an airline as Southwest Airlines in the USA, which was the genesis of Michael O'Leary's model. But whereas Ryanair has successfully copied Southwest's marketing and low frills operation, it has missed out on Southwest's customer care and personnel management where the airline's slogan is 'Spreading the luv!'

We, the pilots and staff at Ryanair, the passengers, the shareholders, need to see a fresh start by the Ryanair board. For there are some nagging questions now. What do the regulators make of a company when a Judge says he has a great difficulty in believing their senior executives under oath? What do investors make of a management which may end up wasting over €1,000,000 on a court case which the judge declared to be a 'feigned' legal action? What do customers make of an airline which oppresses those who fly the aircraft in which they travel? What do governments make of an employer who denies employees the representation of their professional association and union?

Ryanair is poised to become a mature responsible airline, but it will need significant new direction if is to truly emulate Southwest Airlines and its committed workforce, its appreciative customer base and its standing with government and with the regulators in the USA. I believe Michael O?Leary will think of these things in his quieter moments; if he doesn't his shareholders may have a quiet word in his ear.

Addendum: We had an excellent result in the High Court in Dublin the following Friday 21st July - Mr justice Smyth has accepted our arguments about costs in their entirety and rejected Ryanair's case. He has awarded the Defendants their full solicitor and client "Indemnity" costs against Ryanair, for all the hearings in the case, including today's. Total costs are likely to exceed €1,000,000.

It is a significant expression of the Judge's disapproval of Ryanair's tactics in pursuing this claim.

Note: These are extracts from an article first published in the BALPA Professional Journal, The Log. We reproduce these extracts as we believe the issue it deals with affects everyone in the industry across Europe. The full article can be seen here (PDF).