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The 22nd ratification, recently filed by Turkey, will make the Beijing Convention 2010 on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation into force on 1 July 2018

Pursuant to its recent ratification by the Government of Turkey, ICAO has announced that the Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation, done in Beijing on 10 September 2010, will enter into force on 1 July.

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Aircraft Noise Emission Tax: Piemonte Region Decision

On January 1st 2018, it will entered into force the aircraft noise emission tax (IRESA) as provided for by Article 10 of Regional Law 14 April 2017, n. 6 approved by Piemonte Regional Council.  Caselle Airport does not agree and it retorts affirming that, in this way, Turin airport becomes less competitive than neighboring airports such as Milano Malpensa.  Actually, the above is not a peculiarity of Piemonte Region: the law should be enforce nationwide, but the competence is in charge of the single Region on the basis of a template. The fact is that mainly this law is not applied: the solely Region that provides for by such tax are Lazio, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Calabria and Marche, and, now, Piemonte. According to the calculations, the enforcement of the IRESA will increase the airport cost in Piemonte Region about 24% for every take-off and landing (Paragraph 5 of the above said Article 10 Regional Law 6/2017).

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Italian Antitrust Authority, Ryanair case:

Flight cancellations, Italian Antitrust Authority opens an investigation on Ryanair for alleged unfair commercial practices.

Italian Antitrust Authority has opened an investigation on Ryanair for alleged unfair commercial practices violating the Consumer Code. According to the Authority, the numerous flight cancellations that have already occurred or that will take place in the coming weeks, as reported in the press, could constitute a breach of the duty of diligence set out in art. 20 of the Consumer Code, to the extent that they have been caused by foreseeable organizational and management problems, and not by random and exogenous circumstances outside of Ryanair’s control, ultimately leading to substantial inconvenience to consumers who had long planned their traveling schedules and thus booked and paid for their plane tickets.

In addition, the Antitrust Authority will also investigate the way in which Ryanair has informed passengers of the cancellation of their flight and suggested them the alternative solutions (reimbursement or change of the ticket), since consumers might have been misled about the existence, and therefore the exercise, of their right to financial compensation granted by Regulation EC 261/04 precisely in the event of flight cancellations.

The procedure opened by the Authority has the number PS10972.

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European Court of Justice, Ryanair case: the revenge of fair competition?

Ryanair employment contracts examined by the Court are drafted in English, subject to Irish law, with a jurisdiction clause providing that the Irish courts have jurisdiction. In those contracts, it was stipulated that the work of the employees concerned, as cabin crew, was regarded as being carried out in Ireland given that their duties are performed on board aircraft registered in that Member State. Those contracts nevertheless designate the Belgian Charleroi airport as the employees’ ‘home base’. Those employees start and end their working day at that airport, and they are contractually obliged to reside within an hour of their ‘home base’.

In that context, ECJ considers that, in disputes relating to their employment contracts, air crew members have the option of bringing proceedings before the courts of the place where they perform the essential part of their duties vis-à-vis their employer. Consequently, the national courts must determine that place in the light of all the relevant circumstances, an employee’s ‘home base’ being a significant indicator to that effect.

The Court states that a jurisdiction clause, concluded before the disputes arose, and seeking to prevent employees from bringing proceedings before courts which do however have jurisdiction under EU legislation in this field, is not enforceable against those employees.

The above said has been decided in joined Cases C-168/16 and C-169/16 on 14 September 2017.

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European Court of Justice, Bossen case: The fact that the distance covered by a connecting flight is, as a result of the connection, greater than the distance between the departure and arrival airports has no impact on the calculation of compensation

Birgit Bossen and other passengers travelled from Rome to Hamburg via Brussels on a flight operated by Brussels Airlines. As their flight arrived in Hamburg with a delay of 3 hours and 50 minutes, they brought an action against Brussels Airlines, claiming compensation on the basis of the EU regulation on compensation for airline passengers.

ECJ notes, first, that with regard to the right to compensation, the regulation makes no distinction as to whether the passengers concerned reach their final destination by means of a direct flight or an air journey with connecting flights. In that context, the Court considers that the nature of the flight (direct flight or connecting flight) has no impact on the extent of the inconvenience suffered by the passengers for a cancellation or long delay. Consequently, when determining the amount of compensation in the case of a connecting flight, only the radial distance (calculated on the basis of great circle route method) that a direct flight would cover between the departure airport and the arrival airport should be taken into consideration.

The above said has been decided in Case C-559/16 on 7 September 2017.

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European Court of Justice opinion, the envisage PNR agreement between EU and Canada may not be concluded in its current form because several of its provisions are incompatible with the fundamental rights recognised by the EU

The EU and Canada negotiated an agreement on the transfer and processing of Passenger Name Record data (PNR agreement) which was signed in 2014. The envisaged agreement permits the systematic and continuous transfer of PNR data of all air passengers to a Canadian authority with a view to that data being used and retained, and possibly transferred subsequently to other authorities and to other non-member countries, for the purpose of combating terrorism and forms of serious transnational crime. To that end, the envisaged agreement, amongst other things, provides for a data storage period of five years and lays down requirements in relation to PNR data security and integrity, immediate masking of sensitive data, rights of access to and correction and erasure of data, and for the possibility of administrative and judicial redress. The Court observes, therefore, that although the systematic transfer, retention and use of all passenger data are, in essence, permissible, several provisions of the draft agreement do not meet requirements stemming from the fundamental rights of the European Union. Consequently, the Court concludes that the envisaged agreement may not be concluded in its current form.

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European Court of Justice, Werner Fries case: The age limit of 65 years laid down in EU law for pilots of commercial aircraft transporting passengers, cargo or mail is valid

Mr Werner Fries was employed as a captain by Lufthansa until the end of October 2013 when he had reached the mandatory age limit of 65 years laid down in EU legislation for pilots of commercial aircraft (i.e. Point FCL.065(b) in Annex I to Commission Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011 of 3 November 2011 laying down technical requirements and administrative procedures related to civil aviation aircrew pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council).

Mr Fries assumed that such age limit at issue constitutes discrimination on grounds of age and infringes the freedom to choose an occupation.

According to the Court, it is true that the 65 years age limit establishes a difference in treatment based on age. However, that difference in treatment is justified by the aim of ensuring civil aviation safety in Europe.

The Court states, in that regard, that the age limit applies only to commercial air transport, which is characterized by a greater technical complexity of the aircraft used and a higher number of persons concerned than non-commercial air transport, and that the same age limit does not prohibit the holder of a pilot license, who has attained the age of 65, from acting as a pilot in ferry flights, operated by an air carrier transporting no passengers and no cargo or mail, or from working as an instructor and/or examiner on board an aircraft (provided that in such case he is not part of the flight crew).

The above said has been decided in Case C-190/16.

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Italian Antitrust Authority, Vueling S.A. case: three unfair trade practices misleading costumers

Vueling S.A. – the Spanish low-cost carrier - has been fined €1 million by the Italian Antitrust Authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato) for three unfair trade practices representing a violation of the Italian Consumer Code.

In the first practice, Vueling has been considered as misleading customers over the cost of its online check-in, which it widely advertised as being free but which, in certain instances, has a fee of €15. The airline also failed to properly advertise that check-in procedure at the airport was always free of charge.

In the second practice, Vueling promoted the sale of a 25% discount voucher which was so ambiguous that it left customers unsure of how it could be applied.

In addiction to the above said, Vueling's online contact system was so rigid that customers were unable to exercise their rights to customer service and complaint, forcing them to phone the airline at a fee of up to €15: this third practice has been considered unfair as well.

Finally, AGCM decided to dismissed any action against the airlines for two other potential unfair trade practices regarding no-show rule (i.e. the consequential use of coupon rule) and credit card surcharges: the action has been dismissed following the relevant amendments made by the airline to its general terms and condictions.

The above said has been decided by AGCM in case PS9856.

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European Court of Justice, Air Berlin case: Cancellation fees charged by airline companies may be assessed for unfairness

The German airline company Air Berlin included a term in its general terms and conditions stating that, when a passenger cancels a flight booking at an economy rate or does not take the flight, a flat rate sum is to be charged as a handling fee on the amount due to be reimbursed.

The Court decided that the pricing freedom recognized for air carriers by the regulation on the operation of air services does not preclude the application of a national law transposing the directive on unfair terms from leading to a declaration of invalidity of a term in the general terms and conditions and which allows separate flat-rate handling fees to be billed to customers who cancelled their booking or did not take a flight.

The Court finds in that regard that the general rules protecting consumers against unfair terms also apply to contracts of carriage by air.

Furthermore, as regards the price transparency required by the regulation on the operation of air services, the Court decided that when publishing their air fares, air carriers must specify separately the amounts payable by customers in respect of taxes, airport charges and other charges, surcharges or fees and may not, as a consequence, even partially, include those items in the air fare.

The Court finds that the air fare, taxes, airport charges and other charges, surcharges and fees, which make up the final price to be paid must always be brought to the customer’s attention in terms of the amounts that they represent in that final price. If air carriers were able to choose between including those taxes, charges, surcharges and fees in the air fare and indicating those different items separately, the objective of that regulation to ensure information and transparency with regard to prices would not be achieved.

The above said has been decided in Case C-290/16 against Air Berlin company on 6 July 2017.

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European Commission Interpretative Guidelines on Regulation (EC)1008/2008 - Rules on Ownership and Control of EU air carriers

The European Commission adopted the Interpretative Guidelines on Regulation (EC) 1008/2008 we have all been waiting for.  The Guidelines are composed by two different chapters: one dedicated to the Rules on Ownership and Control of EU air carriers and the other dedicated to Public Service Obligations (PSO). The first of the above said chapters will be of some relevance for the selling attempts applied to Alitalia, currently on Italian “Chapter 11” procedure.

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