News in brief from around the world… A Dutch pilots’ organisation has challenged Ryanair’s plans to transfer workers from Eindhoven and the US transport regulator has thrown out a bid from a Mexican carrier to delay the launch of its operations in the past week.

Europe

⇒ The Dutch Traffic Flyers Association (VNV) said [link in Dutch] on 17 October that it had filed a lawsuit in the Den Bosch District Court, Holland, in a bid to block the transfer of pilots working at Ryanair’s Eindhoven base.

According to VNV, Ryanair plans to close the base on 5 November 2018, forcing pilots to move to southern or eastern Europe, or North Africa, while flights to and from Eindhoven will continue. Dutch law does not allow this kind of forced transfer unless Ryanair has an important interest in closing the base, which it does not, the union argued.

The 16 Ryanair pilots involved in the lawsuit are represented by Zilver Advocaten partner Alwin Stege in Amsterdam, who told ALN that the pilots believe “the closure of the Eindhoven base is a retaliation for the collective action against Ryanair” as Ryanair informed them “in writing” that such action “would result in a 'reorganisation' that could lead to the loss of all jobs”.

Ryanair pilots in the Netherlands previously conducted two 24-hour strikes [links in Dutch] on 10 and 28 August in an attempt to negotiate a collective labour agreement between Ryanair and the Dutch Air Line Pilots Association.

USA

⇒ The US Department of Transport (DoT) issued an order on 22 October denying a request from Mexico-based budget airline Vuela Compania de Aviacion – known as Volaris – for an extension of the date by which it was required to start using slots at Benito Juarez International Airport that were transferred by Delta Air Lines in 2017.

Volaris received the slots in a divestiture procedure after Delta and Mexican flag carrier Aerovias de Mexico were granted antitrust immunity to form a new joint venture.

Volaris cited ongoing delays in the delivery of Airbus A320neo aircraft as prompting its request, noting that the delays have been well documented in its own reports to the DoT and in the media. Furthermore, Volaris argued that the DoT had “a longstanding practice of granting service start-up extensions for issues outside of a carrier’s control”.

In a follow up filing on 13 September, Volaris said its “aircraft delivery issues” significantly worsened, citing a letter from Airbus stating it was experiencing further delays due to issues with Pratt & Whitney engines intended for use in the A320neo. Volaris argued that the full extent of the engine issues had not yet become apparent, and that its relatively small fleet size meant that delays had a disproportionate impact.

The DoT said that while it sympathised with Volaris and the carrier was correct that the delivery issues with the A320neo are well documented, if it were to change the terms of the divestiture after the fact, this would affect the “rights and options of multiple parties”. It noted that this was a different situation to the ones provided in Volaris’ submission, arguing that an extension would not be unusual and urged the carrier to “exhaust all reasonable efforts” to take advantage of the slots before the deadline.

⇒ Two new lawsuits concerning the May 2018 crash of Global Air Flight 972 in Cuba that killed 112 people have been filed in a Chicago court, alleging negligence under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.

The two complaints, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on 30 August, allege that Aerolineas Damojh – a Mexican company that trades as Global Air – was negligent in training its pilots, causing the wrongful deaths of plaintiff Jose Alejandro Hernandez Ricardo’s father and plaintiff Eddy Rodriguez Tiqueira’s son.

Global Air leased a 39-year-old Boeing 737-200, which was manufactured in the United States, to Cuba’s national airline - Cubana de Aviacion - and operated the flight from Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, to Holguin, Cuba on 18 May. According to the complaints, the aircraft was owned and maintained by the Illinois-based AAR Corporation before it was sold to Global Air.

The plaintiffs alleged that the pilots lost control of the aircraft, which crashed shortly after take-off, and that its component parts contained defects that contributed to the causes of the crash. They claimed that, as operator of the flight, Global Air is liable for the deaths of their relatives as it was “legally responsible for assuring that its pilots were properly trained” and that the aircraft was “free from defects”.

The lawsuits are identical to two previous complaints filed in the case but additionally list the engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, as a respondent-in-discovery under a statute specific to Illinois law allowing plaintiffs to name entities they believe hold information that would be relevant to the naming of other defendants in a lawsuit.

Partner Austin Bartlett at BartlettChen Law in Illinois is representing all plaintiffs in the four lawsuits.