Two Pilots Who Argued Mid Flight – Fairly Dismissed

23rd August 2012

We came across an interesting article from HRReview on the case of two pilots being dismissed for arguing mid-flight. An appeal was overturned by a tribunal, claiming that the grounds for fair dismissal were met. We have summarised accordingly.

There are few among us who don’t feel a slight pang of fear when jetting off on holiday. Whether it’s during take-off, upon landing or whilst in the midst of turbulence; it’s rare to meet somebody who is 100% at ease in the air. The crew of commercial airliners are trained to be professional and reassuring, maintaining a calm manner even in the most worrying of situations. So what happens when your captain and his co-pilot have an argument mid-flight?

On a FlyBe crossing from Devon to Spain, Captain Stephen Bird and First Officer Stephen Akers began to argue in the cockpit of the airliner. Although by no means a physical fight, the two men indulged in name-calling and Bird even refused Akers’ request to alter the course to avoid bad weather. When the men disembarked (thankfully safely) after the flight, Akers refused to shake hands with his captain. Indulging in such immaturity when responsible for the safety of hundreds of passengers was seen as more than enough for FlyBe to immediately terminate the two pilots’ employment.

After following the correct procedure and filing an Air Safety Report, they employers promptly read the report and decided the men were unsuitable for such trusting and responsible positions. Their manager and the leader of the internal investigation into the matter said that they weren’t acting as befits their roles, and that a “potential risk to safety” arises when the relationships of the crew deteriorates.

The men claimed that the exchange was banter and jovial, but during a hearing with an employment judge, the case was upheld as grounds for fair dismissal and both men no longer work for FlyBe.
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