Flybe Pilot Sacked For Fear Of Flying Wins Legal Case

A Flybe pilot who was sacked after developing a fear of flying has won a legal case claiming he was unfairly dismissed. Matthew Guest was a first officer with Flybe for seven years flying Q400 aircraft since August 2007. Following a change to Embraer jets flying longer routes, the First Officer started to feel dizzy and nauseous when thinking about flying. This created a chain reaction that led to the pilot’s dismissal on capability grounds.

What Happened?

It all started following a change in duties. Matthew Guest had been happily flying Q400 aircraft as a first officer for seven years. Shortly afterward, the airline reassigned Guest to flying Embraer jets. This was accompanied by a change to flying longer routes, as this is what Flybe typically operates with the jets.

Mr Guest flew the Q400 for seven years with no issues. Photo: Marvin Mutz via Flickr

Following being reassigned, Guest started feeling anxious and dizzy when thinking about flying. This was accompanied by an impending dread in his stomach when boarding aircraft. As a result, Mr Guest went to see his GP and was signed off of work for illness. His GP then wrote to Guest’s superiors, causing his medical certificate to be suspended temporarily. Mr Guest’s GP wrote that he had “developed an increasing phobia and anxiety about long-distance flights and being trapped on the aeroplane.”

Unfit For Duty

Flybe decided that Mr Guest was unfit for duty in March 2017. This followed a series of incidents. After originally signed off of work, Mr Guest’s medical certificate was reinstated in April 2015. This was following several cognitive-behavioral sessions. This was no help, and Mr Guest was signed off again until April 2016 while he attended further sessions and took antidepressants. Following his first flight after returning to work, Mr Guest told Flybe that he felt “Fine. Elated when I got home. I’m cured!”.

Problems began when Flybe switched Mr Guest to flying Embraer jets. Photo: RHL Images

Subsequent flights did not go as well, and in June of 2016, he was allocated a four-hour flight to Kefalonia in Greece, which he accepted. The next day, however, he called in sick, and the airline completely cleared his roster.

In March 2017, Flybe went on to terminate Mr Guest’s employment, stating the following: “[Flybe] remains concerned regarding your fitness to safely fly. Due to the uncertainty of your condition, we cannot as an organisation accept the risk to safety. The medical advice containing the suggestion that your condition could return causes the Company serious concerns and Flybe are not prepared to take risks in the flight deck with people’s lives.”

Unfair Dismissal

Mr Guest was offered a ground-based role within Flybe. This dismissal from flying was, however, deemed unfair by a judge. The judge stated that the unfair dismissal was granted because proper procedure was not followed. Mr Guest was given no chance to meet with the person who decided to fire him. The judge also commented that the pilot should have been allowed to fly the Q400 again, which he had flown for many years without incident. Finally, the judge said that, had Flybe followed the correct procedure for sacking Mr Guest, there is a 2/3 chance that the dismissal would have been deemed fair.

Flybe decided that Mr Guest’s condition constituted a risk to flight safety.

According to The Independent, Guest believes that Flybe should now rehire him. Should Flybe decline, a judge will rule on the decision later this month.

Do you think Flybe was right to sack a pilot with a fear of flying? Did the judge make the correct ruling, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below!