Irish no-frills airline Ryanair said on Tuesday that it will sue a television company after it aired a programme in which some of the carrier's pilots raised fears over its fuel policy.
The airline issued a statement saying it had "instructed its lawyers to issue legal proceedings against Channel 4 Dispatches for defamation" after it highlighted three occasions in which its pilots called in emergency alerts because they were low on fuel.
The programme quoted members of the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG), which later issued a statement defending the testimonies and slamming the airline's "unprecedented" safety reporting procedures.
Ryanair maintained that bad weather was the cause of the incidents and that its aircraft fully complied with EU regulation.
"We stand by our journalism," replied Channel 4.
The documentary drew evidence from an RPG survey, which stated that 94 percent of its members wanted regulators to conduct an inquiry into its safety policies.
The budget airline said the group "lacks any independence, objectivity or reliability" and insisted that the survey was part of RPG's 25-year battle to win union recognition at the airline.
RPG dismissed claims that evidence in the survey had been fabricated.
"The opinions of pilots with responsibility for the safety of millions of passengers play a crucial role in air safety awareness and do not need to be fabricated," said RPG chairman, Evert van Zwol.
"How can the safety opinions of over 1,000 professional pilots be ignored by the safety regulator? (the Irish Aviation Authority)," he asked.
RPG said the survey raises "fundamental questions for the safety regulator and calls into question the existence of a transparent safety culture".
The survey was conducted in response to a memo sent by Ryanair to pilots which the RPG claims threatened disciplinary action if pilots did not submit their safety reports exclusively to Ryanair and/or the safety regulator.
"This action is unprecedented in commercial aviation," said the statement.