Low-Cost airline Ryanair has reportedly fired four flight attendants who said they had flown more than the legal maximum number of hours, and allegedly sent a memo to the rest of its cabin crew warning similar attitudes would lead to disciplinaries.
The staff members, based in Mallorca, said they were due to work on four flights on July 8 – from Palma to Madrid, then to Cologne (Germany) and back to Palma – which would total at least 12 hours on that one day and could even have been as much as 15 hours.
They alerted the captain that they were physically and mentally exhausted and had reached their limits.
The four cabin crew members are said to have been sent to a hotel in Cologne before being flown to Ryanair’s head office in Dublin, via a connecting flight in Manchester, for a disciplinary hearing.
They were told on Friday in Dublin that their employment had been terminated.
According to the Spain-based cabin crew union SITCPLA, the rest of the flight attendants received a letter warning that disciplinary action would be taken and staff could be fired if they ‘refused to fly’.
It said ‘the needs of Ryanair’s customers and their convenience’ were the company’s ‘priority’ and that the firm would ‘not allow travel plans to be disrupted because a small number of cabin crew members refused to operate the flights’.
This ‘failure to comply with their duty’, resorting to the ‘unfounded assumption that they are allowed to choose’ when to fly has caused ‘flight delays and cancellations’.
Ryanair says this is ‘unacceptable behaviour’ which it ‘will not tolerate’.
“Cabin crew do not have the authority to decide which flights are not going to operate; the captain is the only person with that jurisdiction,” the letter reportedly said.
Anyone who ‘had a problem’ with this should ask Operations, staff were allegedly told.
Operations’ purpose is to ‘evaluate the situation’, and it is ‘not up to cabin crew’, who are required to ‘obey instructions given by Operations’, the missive continued.
SITCPLA says the letter mentioned that ‘the issue of fatigue comes up very rarely and has not been a factor in any recent incident’.
“I know the vast majority of you would not tolerate this behaviour and I apologise for having to point out these matters to you, but a small number of cabin crew seem to think their own comfort and convenience come before that of our passengers,” the message went on.
“Our passengers and their comfort and convenience always come first.”
As yet, no mention of the issue has appeared on Ryanair’s website.
Ryanair has hit the headlines three times this week: as well as the cabin crew sacking and Dublin pilots staging a 24-hour strike on Thursday that led to around 30 flight cancellations, an emergency landing in Frankfurt in which 33 passengers had to be taken to a hospital was reported.
A loss of air pressure in the cabin en route from Dublin to Zadar (Croatia) meant oxygen masks dropped down and, in accordance with passenger safety procedures, the captain announced an emergency landing in Germany.
The sharp descent – said to be a total of 11,000 metres and around 3,000 metres in less than a minute – led to 33 out of the total of 189 passengers complaining of headaches, earache and feeling sick, and being taken to a hospital.
Ryanair confirmed it gave refreshment vouchers and hotel accommodation to all those affected since they would need to wait until the following day for a plane to take them on to Zadar.
But it admitted there was a lack of hotel rooms available in the vicinity of Frankfurt Hahn airport.
The second picture, with passengers using oxygen masks, was uploaded onto Facebook by traveller Miomir Todorovi? who said: “I can hardly hear out of my right ear. But the most important thing is that we’re alive.”
Cabin crew in Spain, Italy, Belgium and Portugal have organised a strike later this month, on July 25 and 26.