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Ryanair pilots concerned about safety

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Ryanair pilots are concerned about the airline's safety procedures. Their zero-hours employment conditions could make them wary of speaking up though, a pilots' group has claimed.

The Ryanair Pilot Group (or RPG) attempts to represent the views of pilots flying for the airline, although Ryanair refuses to recognise a union. They polled more than 1,000 pilots, representing nearly 40 percent of the total employed by the airline. They found that 94% wanted regulators to conduct an inquiry into the airline's safety procedures. The poll also found that 89% thought that the airline failed to have an open and transparent safety culture. Two thirds of the pilots were uncomfortable using the airline's internal reporting system to raise safety issues.

The poll coincided with a Channel 4 report highlighting emergency landings by three Ryanair planes in Valencia, when fuel began to run low. The Irish Aviation Authority investigation recommended that Ryanair review its fuelling, especially for flights into busy airports in poor weather.

Many pilots for Ryanair are employed through third party agencies and are on zero-hours contracts with no minimum work hours and no regular shift patterns. The RPG chairman Evert van Zwol suggested that these conditions could make them reluctant to speak out for fear of losing work.

Ryanair responded with customary robustness, claiming that the information was "fabricated" by the RPG, a body which "lacks any independence, objectivity or reliability". They claim the poll is just the latest attempt to win union recognition from the airline. Defending Ryanair's safety standards, the airline pointed out that it has not had a single passenger or flight crew fatality during 29 years of flying.

In the light of the Channel 4 documentary and the pilots' concerns though, would-be Ryanair passengers will have to decide whether that £29.99 fare (plus £60 sundries)is really worth it after all.

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