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French minister to grill Ryanair on safety claims

France's transport minister said this week, he will be seeking "clarification" from low-cost Irish airline Ryanair over "concerning" safety allegations made in a documentary this week by a pilot, who has since been fired by the company.

French minister to grill Ryanair on safety claims
Photo: Paulo Margari

Frederic Cuvillier said he was "determined to obtain the necessary clarifications on the veracity of the allegations that pilots are discouraged from reporting incidents".

On Monday, Britain's Channel 4 aired a programme in which some of Ryanair's staff raised fears over its fuel policy and highlighted three occasions in which pilots called in emergency alerts because they were low on fuel.

Ryanair countered by saying it would sue the broadcaster for defamation, maintaining that bad weather was the cause of the incidents and that its aircraft fully complied with EU regulation.

The documentary cited a survey by a group called the Ryanair Pilot Group, which stated that 94 percent of its members wanted regulators to conduct an inquiry into the safety policies of the low-cost airline.

The survey was conducted in response to a memo sent by Ryanair to pilots which the RPG claims threatened disciplinary action if pilots did not submit their safety reports exclusively to Ryanair and/or the safety regulator.

"Such practices, if they are confirmed, are concerning and would be a violation of applicable rules," Cuvillier said in the statement.

Ryanair dismissed the survey a "fabrication" in a statement, and said the RPG was a front for the European Cockpit Association, a group of pilot trade unions active at its competitors.

The group behind the study "lacks any independence, objectivity or reliability" and did not have access to its more than 3,000 pilots.

Ryanair insisted the survey was part of ECA's 25-year battle to win union recognition at the airline.

All European carriers are obliged to follow security and safety regulations as set out by the European Aviation Safety Authority.

"Ryanair, like other companies, is subject to strict controls, which to this day have not revealed any particular breaches of regulations by this company," Cuvillier said

The budget airline, meanwhile, has fired Captain John Goss, a 27-year-veteran of the company, for "gross misconduct," it was announced on Thursday, after he appeared in Monday's documentary.

“We will not allow a Ryanair employee to defame our safety on national television just three weeks after he confirmed in writing to Ryanair that he had no concerns with safety," a statement from the Irish airline said.

"We look forward to correcting Mr Goss’s defamatory claims in court in due course," the statement added.

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TRAVEL

Ryanair demands that Air France give up French airport slots in exchange for state aid

Budget airline Ryanair urged on Wednesday that Air France be forced to give up lucrative French airport slots if it receives more state aid.

Ryanair demands that Air France give up French airport slots in exchange for state aid
Could Air France be forced to give up airport slots if it accepts more aid from the French state? Photo: AFP

Paris is in talks with European Union officials on the delicate issue of state aid to the French flagship carrier, which has already received substantial help from the government.

“Should yet another enormous and illegal state aid bailout occur, then effective remedies must be applied to ensure fair competition in the French market and to protect the interests of the French consumer / visitor,” a Ryanair statement said.

The low-cost airline is based in Ireland and regularly underscores the amount of money being allocated to keep struggling rivals in the air.

In exchange for more aid, Air France must be prepared to give up “a substantial number of its take-off and landing slots at key French airports including Paris Charles De Gaulle, Paris Orly and Lyon,” Ryanair argued.

French officials and the European Commission are currently discussing the terms of a further recapitalisation of the Air France-KLM group, which has suffered from the Covid-19 crisis.

EU officials have already indicated that in exchange for their approval, Air France should give up coveted slots at Paris' Orly airport, which is essentially saturated now.

Air France on the other hand has indicated that such a move posed a serious threat because it was counting on Orly operations to help it rebound from the crisis.

French officials want to avoid putting Air France, which was struggling even before the pandemic, at a competitive disadvantage.

Ryanair urged EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager to “stand firm in her discussions with the French government.

“Either Air France gets no state aid or proper remedies should be put in place to ensure a fair and level playing field for all airlines,” it insisted.

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