A pilot recently sacked by a UK airline, after developing a phobia for flying, has won a wrongful dismissal suit against the company.
An employment Queens Court judge ruled in favor of Matthew Guest, who had been flying for Exeter-based, short-haul carrier Flybe for seven years, but was fired in March 2007 when the airline determined that the phobia deemed the pilot a flight risk. The ruling didn't determine the compensation for damages suffered by Guest, although the ball is in Flybe's court to give him his job back.
Guest had a good track record with Flybe flying Q400 plans, but in 2014 he was transferred to piloting Embraer aircraft on longer routes. That was when he started suffering from nausea, dizziness, and panic attacks, which he frequently described as akin to severe butterflies and stomach cramps.
Guest consulted with a physician, who wrote a letter to his employers about his phobia, resulting in the company temporarily suspending his medical certificate. He returned to work in 2016 after several sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy and additional pilot training but still couldn't shake off the phobia.
On one occasion, Guest had trepidations about flying a four-hour excursion to Greece that compelled him to call in sick. He talked about the issues surrounding the flight with his manager who then suggested that reading a book or working on a crossword puzzle in transit might help ward off those fears.
The following year, Guest received a letter from Flybe informing him he was gone on grounds of the pilot's capability to fly. Although he was presented with other employment options with the company, including a post as a flight safety support officer, Guest realized that it still wouldn't result in becoming a pilot again. That's when he filed a wrongful dismissal suit against Flybe.
The court ruled that Guest should have had at least a meeting with the company COO and should have still been given the option to continue flying. He had no phobia issues back when he was piloting Q400 aircraft. Failing a reversal of Guest's dismissal from Flybe, the judge will make a ruling later in November.