The regulation is designed to prevent a loophole that enabled some low-cost airlines to pick the least-generous social security systems and apply these to their crew, on the basis of their job mobility.
Since each country is free to determine its own social security system, many different rules exist.
Under the rule change adopted in Strasbourg, pilots and cabin crew will have a home base member state – defined as the place they normally start and end work, and where they have their own accommodation – where they will have a right to social security.
Irish media reported that the new rules could mean Ryanair would face rising social welfare costs as 8,500 cabin crew and pilots at the low-cost carrier now have Irish work contracts.
Ryanair spokesman Peter McNamara criticised the change: "This is another example of how the EU introduces regulations which serve no purpose other than to increase the cost of air travel and reduce competitiveness between EU states," he told the Irish Examiner.
Self-employed also benefit
The new regulation also clarifies access to unemployment benefits for self-employed workers who return to their home countries at least once a week.
If such workers contribute to unemployment schemes in another EU country, but return to a country where jobless benefits are not available for the self-employed, then the country where they last worked will be obliged to pay the benefits.
The regulations were overwhelmingly adopted by the Parliament and were welcomed by all political groups.
The rules apply to the 27 EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and replace the need for a large number of bilateral agreements. They also speed up the exchange of social security information to ensure faster calculation of benefits and rights.