Ryanair threatens to sue Swedish newspaper

Ryanair has threatened to sue a Swedish newspaper for publishing allegations about poor working conditions for pilots at the budget airline.

Ryanair threatens to sue Swedish newspaper

In an article published on Tuesday, the Södermanlands Nyheter (SN) newspaper described “stressed-out pilots who are forced to fly for free”, based on accounts given to the paper by Ryanair pilots who wished to remain anonymous.

The pilots described Ryanair as having a “culture of fear” that resulted in pilots choosing not to take sick leave out of fear they might get fired.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve flown with colleagues that are so tired that they can’t keep their eyes open and need to sleep for ten minutes during a flight,” one pilot told SN, explaining he wasn’t describing scheduled “power naps”.

Part of the problem, according to the pilot, is that Ryanair pilots are paid for flight times laid out in a schedule. If a flight is delayed, and a pilot ends up flying outside the time allotted according to the schedule, the pilot in essence flies without getting paid, the pilot claimed.

In an email to SN, portions of which were published by the paper, Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely rejected the allegations, claiming the anonymous pilots had “made up a bunch of garbage”.

Kiely explained that all Ryanair pilots are legally obligated to file a report if they are too sick to fly and denied that a pilot had ever been fired for calling in sick.

He also rejected the pilot’s claims that colleagues fell asleep in the cockpit, calling them “untrue, false, and completely made up”.

Kiely tried to stop the publication of the article, suggesting that Ryanair would sue SN if it ran the story

“If you publish some of these claims we’re going to launch legal proceedings against your newspaper,” he wrote.

The efforts to muffle the newspaper left editor Göran Carstorp incredulous.

“It’s completely unbelievable. They want to silence a debate about the safety of flying,” he told Sveriges Television (SVT).

A representative for the Swedish pilots’ union Svensk Pilotförening told SVT that the account published by SN is in line with information he’s heard from other Ryainair pilots, adding that some have secretly joined the union.

“The company has a tyrannical construction and works to frighten its employees,” union representative Anders Kjellgren told SVT.

“That’s why it’s so cheap to fly with Ryanair.”

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Airline Norwegian cancels 3,000 flights due to coronavirus impact

Low-cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle said on Tuesday it would cancel “approximately 3,000 flights” from mid-March to mid-June as the coronavirus outbreak hits travel.

Airline Norwegian cancels 3,000 flights due to coronavirus impact
Photo: Rune Feldt Rasmussen/Zuma/Ritzau Scanpix
Editor's note: The situation around the novel coronavirus is changing rapidly, and this article is no longer being updated. Please click HERE for the latest updates and HERE for all our coronavirus coverage.

The cancellations represent 15 percent of the airline's capacity for the period.

“The past week, Norwegian has experienced reduced demand on future bookings. The company will cancel about 3,000 flights to meet the change in demand. The cancellations represent approximately 15 percent of the total capacity for the period mid-March to mid-June,” the company said in a statement to the Oslo stock exchange.

The company added that the cancellations would affect the airline's entire network.

“More details will be shared as soon as they are ready to be implemented. Affected customers will receive information about these changes as soon as they take place,” the statement continued.

A significant number of staff at the company are likely to be affected by the decision.

“Unfortunately, cancellations will affect a significant share of our colleagues at Norwegian. We have initiated formal consultations with our unions regarding temporary layoffs for flying crew members as well as employees on the ground and in the offices.

“We will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with unions and employees to work through this difficult situation together,” Norwegian CEO Jacob Schram said in the statement.

Norwegian has already suspended flights between Oslo and Milan until May based on travel guidelines from Norway's foreign ministry as well as health authority recommendations.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week estimated that losses in revenue for airlines due to the new coronavirus could range from $63 billion (55 billion euros) to $113 billion, depending on whether the spread of the virus was contained.

Norwegian, which has been in deficit for three years and is heavily indebted due to an ambitious expansion policy, especially in long-haul flights, is particularly vulnerable.

Last Thursday, the company withdrew its 2020 forecast, which predicted a return to profits, citing the new coronavirus epidemic.

In early afternoon trading on Tuesday, shares in Norwegian were down 5.8 percent on the Oslo Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Denmark, authorities on Tuesday banned all flights to heavily affected areas, such as parts of China, Iran and Italy, for two weeks.

The Danish government also urged people to avoid public transport during rush hours.

On Tuesday, Denmark had 158 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and Norway had 192.