213/2019 - Ryanair and the Irish Independent
The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint by Ryanair that the Irish Independent breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 3 (Fair Procedures and Honesty) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
On 8 August 2019 the Irish Independent carried a report that Irish-based Ryanair pilots were likely to follow their UK-based colleagues and vote for strike. The headline on the article read “Pilot strike at Ryanair to cause chaos for travellers”. The opening paragraph of the article read “Irish travellers face a rising risk of massive holiday disruptions after Ryanair pilots in the UK voted yesterday to strike – a move likely to be backed by Irish pilots tomorrow”.
Ryanair wrote to the editor of the Irish Independent expressing their surprise at the “sensational, baseless, inaccurate headlines”, pointing out that the UK pilot strike took place “… without any disruption to flights, no cancellations, and no flight delays were caused by any pilot strikes…”
The Irish Independent responded to Ryanair drawing attention to the sub-heading to the article which stated, “Airline’s Irish pilots expected to join UK colleagues’ first action on August 22”. The newspaper made the point “it is clear that the meaning of the headline and sub-headline as a whole is that travel chaos could ensue if there are concurrent strikes by both UK and Irish-based pilots”. The Irish Independent went on to state that at the time of publication of the article the UK-based pilots had voted to strike and their Irish counterparts were expected to join the strike action in a ballot.
Ryanair made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman claiming that Principles 1 and 3 had been breached. In its complaint Ryanair made the point that the airline had handled previous pilots’ strikes without “cancellations or flight disruptions” and therefore the claims in the article of impending chaos were baseless.
The Irish Independent defended its report and said that “this complaint is merely the latest in an oppressive series of complaints designed to stifle our reporting on Ryanair’s business”.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
At the time the article was written the UK-based pilots had voted for strike. The article anticipated the effect the strikes would have. Had the pilots’ strikes gone ahead it is not unreasonable for the newspaper to anticipate, as the headlines does, that passengers would face chaos. Therefore, I cannot find a breach of Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) in the article. A breach of Principle 3 was also claimed by Ryanair. The airline referred to a “malicious agenda against them”. Principle 3 requires the press to strive at all times for fair procedures and honesty in the procuring and publishing of news and information. No evidence has been put to me to substantiate a claim of a” malicious agenda”. Therefore, I find that Principle 3 was not breached.
8 November 2019