A judge in England recently ruled that an airline pilot was unfairly terminated from his job after he developed a fear of flying. The former pilot for Flybe Airlines won his unfair dismissal claim against the carrier after he was fired following several failed attempts to address his condition. He had been employed by the airline for seven years, and reportedly developed his phobia in 2014, after being transferred to longer routes.
And now he may once again get to fly the scary skies. Go figure.
A judge in the tribunal that heard his case wrote that “[he] started feeling sick during the longer flights, and one day, after experiencing feelings of dread upon driving to work, he “called in sick and returned home.” His doctor reported he had “developed an increasing phobia and anxiety about long-distance flights,” and that his medical certificate was suspended temporarily.
Court records indicate that the airline tried to work with him on this issue. They gave him a leave of absence, “during which he underwent therapy and began a course of antidepressants, and had his medical clearance reinstated.” When his condition returned within two months, a supervisor suggested he “pass the time by reading a book or doing a crossword” while the plane was on autopilot. They even offered him a “ground-based position as a flight safety support officer,” which he declined.
He eventually called in sick over his condition, and he was terminated in 2017 with the airline citing safety concerns.
Ya think? Personally, I would want to know the pilot in charge of transporting me safely wasn’t afraid to look out the window once we left the ground.
The court ultimately ruled that he should have been offered the opportunity to return to his old, shorter routes, and that his termination was improper.
So, there you have it. Being unable to perform your job is no reason to lose it, even if it endangers hundreds of other people in the process. Now we learn that if you are a nervous flyer, you can just close your eyes – just like the guy who is flying your plane.
I don’t know about you, but I think mental health is pretty important when it comes to certain jobs, like piloting an aircraft. No one wants to see a pilot melt down, like the former Jet Blue Captain who was locked out of the cockpit by his co-pilot for acting erratically and proceeded to pound on the door while yelling that everyone on the plane was going to die. Or how about the Germanwings pilot who locked his captain out of the cockpit and them committed suicide by flying the plane into a mountainside? The fact he took 144 innocent souls with him is kind of an issue.
This case just serves as another example of accommodations run amuck. We’ve become so obsessed with being “fair’ that we ultimately aren’t; in this case the court’s decision is not fair for the employer or the flying public. A pilot who has developed anxiety issues over flying has been ordered reinstated. It is a decision that takes fairness a bridge – or in this case a flight – too far.