Ryanair linked with final bid for Alitalia

Ryanair linked with final bid for Alitalia

Ryanair is reportedly poised to make a final offer to take over Alitalia, keeping the bankrupt Italian airline’s brand and long-haul flights.

The Irish low cost carrier would invest in new aircraft for short-haul Alitalia flights, according to chief executive Michael O’Leary.

But he again ruled out a Ryanair bid for troubled Air Berlin, accusing Germany of rigging the process to benefit and strengthen Lufthansa.

“We would have to order new planes, whether Boeing or Airbus,” O’Leary told The Times, adding that Ryanair preferred to own its fleet rather than lease aircraft, as Alitalia has done.

He promised to preserve jobs for Alitalia pilots and crew, but they would have to accept new employment terms in line with Ryanair’s existing contracts.

Yesterday those contracts faced a court challenge by cabin crew based at Ryanair’s Charleroi airport in Belgium, who opposed the airline through the local legal system. Ryanair employs staff across Europe under Irish contracts, which the airline insists are governed solely by Irish courts.

The European Court of Justice ruled that Belgian staff and other employees based outside Ireland “have the option of bringing proceedings before courts of the place where they perform the essential part of their duties”.

O’Leary acknowledged that while the ruling would give local courts more oversight of working terms and conditions, it did not change the legal basis, in Irish law, of their contracts.

“Our contracts comply fully with EU employment law. We expect no change to staffing agreements, contracts or labour costs. This won’t change Ryanair’s cost base by one cent,” he said.

Budget carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet have bases across Europe, including in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, where both aircraft and crews are stationed. This means crews can return to their home base each night, allowing the airlines to avoid costs involved with overnight rest stops.

Ryanair chief people officer Eddie Wilson said that the judgment preserved the contract model favoured by budget airlines by accepting that where staff were based did not automatically determine jurisdiction.

“Maintaining broad assessment criteria ensures that the most appropriate jurisdiction should apply in cases involving international transport workers rather than a sole criterion approach, which would narrow the assessment and restrict movement and flexibility,” he said.

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