News in brief from around the world… The past week has seen a suit filed against United Airlines and the City of Chicago by a former aviation security officer, and a temporary ban on Venezuelan airlines operating in Panama. Meanwhile, Canadian specialist aviation company Discovery Air was granted the right to sell its subsidiaries and Ryanair was hit with a series of lawsuits in the Irish High Court.
⇒ Ryanair has been hit with 37 separate lawsuits by individual plaintiffs in the Irish High Court.
The actions were all filed by Ryanair pilots according to the Irish Times, which notes that the airline has been in negotiations with pilots’ groups across Europe since it lifted its ban on trade unions last year.
Pilot shortages led to the cancellation of thousands of Ryanair flights in September, prompting the UK Civil Aviation Authority to launch an enforcement action against the airline. The crisis also resulted in a large number of pilots forming company councils to negotiate with Ryanair management, who for years have been hostile to organised labour.
In March, transnational pilots’ union the European Cockpit Association announced the creation of the Ryanair Transnational Pilot Group, which it said would lobby for “direct permanent employment contracts subject to local law” and “effective collective representation for all Ryanair pilots regardless of country or base”.
The Irish Times reports that the new lawsuits were employment actions against Ryanair, but that there was believed to be no union involvement. The current records on the High Court website merely list the case names, numbers and filing dates, all of which are 9 April.
⇒ The Panama government passed measures on 10 April banning several Venezuelan airlines from operating in the country for at least 90 days.
The move comes after Venezuela was included on a list of countries that allegedly “apply discriminatory or restrictive measures to the international economic and commercial interests of the Republic of Panama.”
Following the listing, ministers were empowered to impose the ban under Law 48, a measure passed by the Panamanian government in October 2016 that allows officials to propose measures to safeguard the country’s interests. The affected airlines include state-owned Aeropostal and Conviasa as well as private airlines, including Avior, Laser, Santa Barbara and Turpial. The new measures will come into effect on 25 April.
According to Reuters, this latest move in an ongoing dispute between the two countries was in response to a Venezuelan decision on 5 April to halt commercial relations with certain Panamanian officials and companies, including regional airline Copa, for alleged involvement in money laundering.
⇒ James Long, the former Chicago aviation security officer who was fired after forcibly removing a passenger from a United Airlines flight, is suing the airline, the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) and its commissioner, Ginger Evans. The lawsuit, filed on 10 April in the Circuit Court of Cook Country, Illinois claims that he was not properly trained to use force.
Video footage taken by passengers showed Dr David Dao being dragged down the aisle of a parked plane by Chicago aviation police, including Long, after refusing to give up his seat to make room for airline employees on the flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky. Long and three others were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation after the footage went viral. Long was dismissed on 8 August 2017.
The suit alleges that the CDA was negligent and failed to train Long in the procedure of level of “force continuum” – the standard as to the amount of force that law enforcement officers can use against a resisting subject – and that United was negligent in asking security officers to remove Dao from the plane in the first place. Long is also suing both the CDA and Evans for damages related to intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing and defamation, among other complaints.
The suit alleges that Evans knowingly made and published false statements about Long through her Twitter account and in the media, implying that Long was not a police officer, that his actions on the date in question were inappropriate, and that so-called security staff are “not armed with guns for good reason”. Long claims that those statements contributed to his termination and that Evans “conspired” with the CDA to terminate his employment.
The State of Illinois, City of Chicago and Evans are also facing a class action lawsuit filed by partners at Sweeney & Scharkey on 11 April on behalf of 292 aviation security officers regarding changes to their jobs following the incident.
⇒ The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has granted Canadian specialist aviation company Discovery Air the right to sell its wholly owned subsidiaries as part of its restructuring.
The 4 April order clears the way for bids for Discovery’s three main subsidiaries, Great Slave Helicopters, Air Tindi and Discovery Mining Services, as well as its remaining minority interest in its former defence business, with an auction scheduled for May 31.
Discovery says it expects all transactions to conclude by July 31.
Discovery was granted protection under Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) on 21 March, providing for a moratorium on creditor actions against the company, which the latest order extends until 29 June.