Ryanair Web site row takes off

Ryanair is attempting to discover the identities of pilots said to have made remarks about the airline on a Web site

Ryanair is in the middle of a legal battle in a case that highlights the often uncomfortable relationship between companies and online message boards.

The budget airline will appear in court next week in a bid to discover the identity of pilots who posted comments about the airline's working practices on an independent Web site run by the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA).

Last week, Ryanair won an injunction that prevented BALPA from deleting information on its Web server.

"There's nothing on our Web site that is intimidating or a threat," said a BALPA spokesman. "It's a right old battle. Behind it all is whether [Ryanair] can demand the names of the people behind the Web site."

BALPA and its Irish counterpart built the Web site, called REPAWEB, which the groups claim help Ryanair employees discuss their working conditions. BALPA says that Ryanair told pilots they would have to sign five-year contracts or not be trained to fly new aircraft, thus facing possible redundancy as the old aircraft are phased out.

"Ryanair took this to court and pleaded an injunction over the deletion of evidence," said a spokesman for the airline. The case continues.