News in brief from around the world…Recent days have seen IAG and Ryanair announce plans to bring a complaint before the European Commission over air traffic control strikes, and the US Department of Transportation announce and investigation in aircraft evacuation standards. Meanwhile, aviation disputes have reached settlements on both sides of the pond.

Europe

⇒ International Airlines Group and Irish carrier Ryanair have announced that they are preparing a complaint to the European Commission, claiming that air traffic control strikes, which have led to a spike in flight cancellations this year, violate EU law.

In a press release issued via trade association Airlines for Europe (A4E) on 20 June, IAG and Ryanair said the complaint will argue that the strikes “breach the principle of allowing people and goods to move freely across Europe” by not adequately protecting flights over France, where industrial action increased by 300% in the sector over the past year.

They described the increase in strikes as “alarming”, noting that resulting cancellations by A4E member airlines had directly affected around 748,000 passengers across Europe, and millions more travellers “have been affected by flight delays caused by airspace diversions and residual backups”.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said: “IAG and Ryanair are planning to submit a complaint to the European Commission as [air traffic control] strikes represent the biggest challenge for our industry. They are destroying European air traffic and having a huge impact on consumers . . . The EU must act now to protect the rights of the consumers and prevent long-term damage to European economies”.

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, added: “These disruptions are unacceptable, and we call on the Governments, and the EU Commission to take urgent and decisive action to ensure that [air traffic control] providers are fully staffed and that overflights are not affected when national strikes take place.”

⇒ The European Commission said on 14 June that it updated the EU Air Safety List of airlines that do not meet international safety standards, removing the names of all Indonesian carriers in light of “the new aviation safety gains that have been seen in this country”.

All Indonesian airlines were added to the register in June 2007 following the Adam Air Flight 574 and Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 crashes earlier that year. Although a small number of carriers were removed since then, most remained on the list until the country made “improvements to the . . . aviation safety situation”.

"The EU Air Safety List is one of our main instruments to continuously offer the highest level of air safety to Europeans,” Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said. “I am particularly glad that after years of work, we are today able to clear all air carriers from Indonesia. It shows that hard work and close cooperation pay off.”

The Commission also announced that Eurocontrol, the organisation responsible for air traffic operations in the EU, is developing a new system to warn air traffic controllers in all member states when an unauthorised aircraft attempts to enter EU airspace.

⇒ Global private aviation services provider Gama Aviation announced on 19 June that it had reached a settlement with its former director, private jet operator Hanger8 founder Dustin Dryden, in a case in the UK High Court.

In a statement, filed with the London Stock Exchange, Gama said that Dryden agreed to withdraw damages claims against the company, and make a cash payment of an undisclosed amount and transfer of “certain assets” to Gama. In turn, Gama will withdraw debt recovery claims against Dryden.

In September 2017, the Sunday Times reported that Dryden has filed a £10 million lawsuit against Gama, which merged with Hangar8 in 2014

USA

⇒ American Airlines has agreed to pay $45,000,000 to plaintiffs in a multidistrict antitrust suit in the District Court in Washington, DC.

The suit accuses four of the United States’ largest airlines – American, Southwest, Delta and United – of violating section one of the Sherman Act by colluding to limit capacity and increase prices for domestic airfares. Southwest already settled with the plaintiffs in January 2018.

In a memo supporting the 18 June settlement, the plaintiffs, including all those who bought domestic tickets from the airlines between July 2011 and June 2018, said that American had also agreed to make current or former employees available for deposition, answer questions about the carrier’s documents and transactional data, and produce business records and authenticity declarations or affidavits.

⇒ The US Department of Transportation inspector general’s office said in a memo to the Federal Aviation Administration’s director of audit and evaluation on 18 June that it will conduct an audit of the FAA’s oversight of aircraft evacuation standards, after stakeholders raised concerns.

Current standards, which have not been updated since 1990, require that it be possible for passenger aircraft be fully evacuated in 90 seconds or less in the event of an emergency. Manufacturers must be able to prove their aircraft are compliant by a demonstration or combination of equivalent tests and analyses to obtain certification.

Assistant inspector general for aviation audits Matthew Hampton told the FAA that the aviation industry and consumer behaviour had changed significantly since the regulations were last updated, citing changes in the distance between seats as a pertinent example.

In that light, he said, the inspector general’s office would assess the agency’s “development and updating” of evacuation standards and process for determining whether aircraft meet those standards, at the request of the ranking members of the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Subcommittee on Aviation.

“We look forward to working with the OIG to explain how we ensure airlines are complying with our regulations on emergency evacuations,” the FAA told ALN.

⇒ The US Department of Transportation granted the Maltese branch of General Dynamics subsidiary Jet Aviation’s request for a foreign air carrier permit and exemption on 19 June, under Title 49 of the US Federal Code and the EU-US Open Skies agreement.

The permit authorises Jet Aviation to run charter services transporting people, property and mail between the United States and all EU member states, and to transport cargo in and out of the US. If additional “route rights” are made available to EU carriers in the future, Jet Aviation will be allowed to use those routes as well, if it provides evidence of the permit to the DOT in advance.

Jet Aviation opened its Maltese aircraft management and charter operation in May 2017 as a joint venture with Slovakian holding company Luxury Business Jets, and launched flight operations from Malta’s capital, Valetta, in December of that year after successfully securing a Maltese air operator’s certificate.

⇒ US law firm LeClair Ryan said on 18 June that it had added former Schnader Harrison trial lawyer William Janicki to its California aviation team.

Janicki, a former US air force pilot with a master’s degree in engineering, focuses his practice on commercial, product liability, IP and other business disputes in a range of industries across the US and abroad, with an emphasis on aerospace and defence.

He regularly represents clients, including airlines and aircraft manufacturers, in litigation involving allegations such as wrongful death, design or manufacturing defects, crashworthiness, strict liability, negligence and other aviation-related suits.

Janicki began his legal career at Gray Cary Ware & Friedenrich in 2001, before moving to Morrison and Foerster in 2004. He joined Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis in 2015.

 “We wish Bill well and appreciate his contributions to Schnader, as he pursues other opportunities,” said Robert Williams, Schnader Harrison aviation practice group chair.