Ryanair accuses Poland of favouring domestic airlines, takes case to Brussels

“Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arbitrarily selected 32 destinations served from Warsaw to give them priority in case of an expected capacity crunch. This discriminatory choice of priority routes means that Ryanair can only operate two routes from Warsaw in May, while LOT will operate 19 of them,” the airline’s statement read. [Shutterstock/GTS Productions]

Irish airline Ryanair has filed a complaint before the European Commission, accusing the Polish government of unfairly favouring Polish airline LOT by prioritising it in operating connections to alleviate the effects of a temporary crisis in Polish aviation.

At the end of last year, Polish flight controllers employed by the state-owned Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PAŻP) were presented with new pay and employment conditions. According to the agency, the controllers’ low salaries were due to financial problems in the aviation industry caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The disgruntled controllers, who are affiliated with the Air Traffic Controllers Trade Union (ZZKRL), have made dozens of demands for changes to their conditions of employment regarding safety procedures and their salaries. They threatened to resign if the demands were not met.

In the end, no final agreement was reached, although the government agreed to meet all demands concerning workplace safety.

The Polish government published a regulation on Monday (25 April) in case of further failure to agree in the dispute with the trade union. Among other things, the draft includes the identification of 32 priority airports in Europe to which flights will still be operated even if the dispute continues.

The criteria adopted by the government mean that the 32 priority routes will be served mainly by LOT Polish Airlines, a plan criticised by Ryanair, which operates many connections to and from Poland.

“Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arbitrarily selected 32 destinations served from Warsaw to give them priority in case of an expected capacity crunch. This discriminatory choice of priority routes means that Ryanair can only operate two routes from Warsaw in May, while LOT will operate 19 of them,” the airline’s statement read.

The government regulation is to come into force on 1 May if no agreement with controllers is reached by then.

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