Can ground pilots at 65, EU court says
A Deutsche Lufthansa AG pilot who was grounded when he turned 65 lost his age-discrimination fight at the European Union’s top court, which said EU legislation imposing the limit is justified for safety reasons.
“It is undeniable that the physical capabilities essential to the profession of an airline pilot diminish with age,” the EU Court of Justice said in a ruling Wednesday. Insisting on the limit prevents the possibility of age-related accidents, the court said.
The ruling is another setback for pilots such as Werner Fries, a captain and an instructor for Lufthansa, who contested the airline’s decision to end his contract the moment he turned 65, and not let him work until his term ended two months later.
Pilot groups argue that it makes no sense to ground cockpit crews while there is a shortage of trained aviators and while the rest of the population is expected to work longer before retirement. Lufthansa pilots have a history of picking fights over what they say are discriminatory age limits. More than a decade ago a group of them challenged the then age limit of 60, saying they were fit, loved their jobs and wanted to fly as long as they passed all the required medical tests.
Lufthansa spokesman Joerg Waber said the company welcomed the decision. The European Cockpit Association, a group in Brussels representing pilots at the EU level, said it’s studying the ruling and had no immediate comment.