An Employment Tribunal has ruled that two pilots, sacked after arguing during a flight from Devon to Spain, were fairly dismissed. Captain Stephen Bird and First Officer Stephen Akers were dismissed by Flybe after arguing in the cockpit. Exeter Tribunal heard that as well as name-calling, Captain Bird ignored his co-pilot’s request to avoid bad weather, and Mr Akers refused to shake his hand after landing. Both pilots filed unfair dismissal cases, claiming the argument was merely ‘banter’, with Captain Bird describing the exchange as being in “jest and a clearly jovial manner”.

Both pilots phoned their manager, Captain Stan Wood, about the incident and he told them to file an Air Safety Report. They were then both sacked, despite both having previously clean disciplinary records.

Captain Stan Wood, who led the Flybe internal inquiry, said:

“In my view Stephen Bird did not act as a captain should have. He chose to engage in the argument with Mr Akers which exacerbated the situation.”

He added that a breakdown in crew relationships caused “a potential risk to safety” and “swearing at your captain during the flight is completely unacceptable”.

Employment Judge, Christopher Carstairs, said:

“The unanimous judgement of the Tribunal is that the respondent fairly dismissed the claimants.”