Ryanair is suing The Sunday Times for libel over an article claiming the airline operator routinely breached safety violations.
The 23 September story was based on a leaked a report from Spain’s air safety agency and claimed the company had broken safety rules 2,210 times in Spanish airspace in the first half of the year.
The article alleged the incidents occurred more than six times a day on average and included “emergency landings, cabin depressurisations and violations of flight plans”.
It quoted the Spanish pilots’ union and Irish Airline Pilots’ Association suggesting the company routinely instructed pilots to “fly with as little fuel as possible”.
The paper alleged three flights were diverted from Madrid to Valencia due to bad weather but that pilots were left with insufficient fuel to remain in their holding patterns and were forced to put out mayday calls, which gave them priority.
David Guillamon Santias of the Spanish Air Traffic Controllers Union Aprocta was quoted as saying: “It gives Ryanair an unfair competitive edge over other airlines that actually do carry enough fuel.”
In a High Court writ seen by Press Gazette, the company claims the article has gravely injured the reputation of the airline and has exposed it to public scandal, contempt, odium, ridicule, and to be shunned and avoided.
Ryanair seeks damages for libel against Times Newspapers Ltd and an injunction to stop further publication of the allegations.