Ryanair pilot 'sent to Siberia' resigns

A pilot who made a jibe at Michael O'Leary in the FT has resigned after he found himself reassigned to 'Siberia for Ryanair pilots'.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 12 Jan 2011
A pilot who had a crack at gobby CEO Michael O’Leary in the Financial Times has resigned after he found himself unaccountably reassigned to ‘Siberia for Ryanair pilots’. Captain Morgan Fischer had been based in Marseilles, but when the airline decided to close the base because of problems with the French authorities, he was assigned to Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city (Lithuania’s answer to Birmingham, then. Egad), while all his colleagues swanned off to sun-drenched destinations in Spain, Italy and Portugal. Ryanair, of course, insists it’s all an innocent misunderstanding – so does he have the right to be upset?

It seems the good captain’s problems began when pilots who were due to be reassigned from Marseilles were asked to submit requests for their new bases. But, since he was embroiled in a year-long disagreement with the airline over his contract, Capt Fischer apparently said he wanted to talk it over with someone first because he was worried that Ryanair might use the opportunity to sneak a new, possibly less beneficial, contract past him. Ryanair claims that the pilots who didn’t say where they wanted to be transferred were automatically ‘offered transfers to other bases in Spain, Italy, the UK and Lithuania, according to where we have pilot vacancies’. So Capt Fischer ended up in Kaunas – or, as a colleague called it, ‘Siberia for Ryanair pilots’. Sends a little chill down your spine, doesn’t it?

So it could all be a coincidence. A couple of months ago, Capt Fischer wrote a cheeky letter to the FT, suggesting the idea of replacing Michael O’Leary with a ‘probationary cabin crew member currently earning about €13,200 net a year’. That was after comments from the outspoken CEO a couple of months ago, when he suggested that airlines could save ‘a fortune’ if co-pilots could be scrapped to save money, with air stewardesses being trained to land an aircraft in an emergency. But then who would hand out the hot towels to panicky passengers?

A colleague told the FT today that it ‘was a fairly considerable kick in the teeth for him’, adding, in classic pilot vernacular, that the ‘money’s dreadfully bad’. For his part, though, Capt Fischer is keeping steadfastly schtum, which seems the sporting thing to do when you consider that he’s at least had better luck than other Ryanair employees, 1,000 of whom found out last month that their jobs at Frankfurt airport would be cut. It seems harsh – but, ‘Siberia’ or not, with unemployment stubbornly refusing to drop, relocating to less pleasant locations might become a reality for more and more people. To put it in pilot-ese: it’s a jolly bad show, if you ask us…

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