Northern Ireland

Daily Mail publisher settles Ryanair libel

Michael O'Leary
Image caption Mr O'Leary said the airline would continue separate legal action against Channel 4

A libel action brought by Ryanair has been settled out of court in Belfast.

The publishers of the Daily Mail and the Irish Daily Mail were the subjects of the action.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said the deal vindicated the airline's standing as "one of Europe's safest airlines".

Mr O'Leary and his senior pilot were both at the High Court in Belfast for the resolution of proceedings against Associated Newspapers Ltd and Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd.

Ryanair launched the action over articles based on a television documentary that claimed to reveal safety and fuel issues at the airline.

A statement read out by the newspapers' publishers as part of the confidential settlement acknowledged Ryanair planes fully complied with EU safety rules during three fuel emergency landings.

Separate legal action

"We are very pleased that the Mail has acted promptly to set the record straight in relation to our safety standards - time was of the essence," Mr O'Leary said.

"We employ 9,500 aviation professionals and today's settlement vindicates that the quality of work they do in delivering what the IAA (Irish Aviation Authority) has confirmed is one of the safest airlines in Europe."

Mr O'Leary said the airline would continue separate legal action against Channel 4 over its Dispatches documentary.

The defamation proceedings were brought against Associated Newspapers Ltd and Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd over an article that appeared last month in the Irish Daily Mail and the Mail Online.

Adverse weather

Following the settlement, Michael Kealey, the defendants' legal manager in Ireland, read a statement approved by the judge to the court.

The statement detailed how the article referred to claims made by a body describing itself as a Ryanair Pilot Group and other allegations broadcast in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme.

"Ryanair does not accept the results of the survey conducted by the interim council of this group, whose chairman is a KLM pilot, or that the group represents the views of the majority of Ryanair's pilots," Mr Kealey said.

Three fuel emergency landings made in July 2012 in Valencia, Spain, were also mentioned.

"We accept that the official report produced by the Irish safety agencies confirmed that all three aircraft took on extra fuel," he said.

"All three aircraft flew for over one hour more than planned due to adverse weather and diversions from Madrid to Valencia.

"All three aircraft fully complied with EU safety rules when landing safely in Valencia."

'Comprehensive vindication'

Mr Kealey said the airline had made clear that pilots with legitimate safety concerns should report them directly to Ryanair or to the Irish Aviation Authority, using confidential safety reporting systems.

"We also accept the recent confirmation issued by the independent Irish Aviation Authority that 'Ryanair's safety is on a par with the safest airlines in Europe' and acknowledge Ryanair's 29 year safety record," he said.

Chief pilot, Captain Ray Conway, also expressed satisfaction with the "comprehensive vindication and acknowledgment" of the airline's safety record.

"While I am unable to make specific comments concerning our ongoing legal proceedings regarding Channel 4's Dispatches programme, I wish to emphasise that Ryanair cannot and will not tolerate what were totally unjustified and inappropriate allegations in relation to our industry leading safety," he said.

"Safety has been, and will always be, the absolute priority for Ryanair."