DUBLIN — Pilots at Europe's biggest low-cost airline Ryanair feel inhibited from reporting safety concerns and want regulators to establish the impact on safety of its employment practices, a group of pilots seeking union representation said.
The Irish carrier, which helped pioneer a low-fare no-frills service with additional charges for everything from checking in at the airport to carrying hold bags, dismissed the survey on Monday as "fabricated" by trade union officials.
The Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG), which the company does not recognize, said it had polled more than 1,000 pilots and first officers, over a third of the airline's total, and found 94 percent wanted regulators to conduct an inquiry.
Passengers board a Ryanair plane parked at Girona airport, September 20, 2012.
It also said 89 percent did not consider that the airline had an open and transparent safety culture and two thirds were not comfortable raising issues through an internal reporting system.
Ryanair said the group "lacks any independence, objectivity or reliability" and the survey was part of a 25-year failed campaign to win union recognition at Ryanair.
The airline says it has not had a single passenger or flight crew fatality in its 29 years of operation and that it encourages flight crews to report any safety concerns through an online confidential system.
RPG's chairman, Evert van Zwol, who is not a Ryanair pilot but until recently was president of the Dutch Airline Pilots Association (VNV), said three quarters of Ryanair pilots are employed through agencies and nearly all of these are on so-called zero-hour contracts, which offer no guaranteed work.
The Irish Airline Pilots' Association trade union said these contracts had some of the worst conditions in the industry.
That could mean pilots may shy away from speaking up, for example on whether their plane was carrying enough fuel, or choose to fly when sick, Van Zwol said.
While there was no proof that this was the case, the concerns warranted a full independent inquiry to establish if there were any grounds for safety concerns, he said.
The RPG said it gave the survey results to Ryanair and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).
Asked about the survey, the IAA said Ryanair fully complied with all European and international regulations and that any employee could make a confidential report on any safety concern via its public website.
Last year the IAA launched an investigation following emergency landings by three Ryanair planes in Spain after they approached their minimum required fuel.
The report found the planes were carrying more than the minimum, but recommended the company review its fuel policies for planes flying into some busy airports during poor weather conditions.
Reuters' Conor Humphries contributed to this story.
First published August 12 2013, 10:11 AM