Can ground pi­lots at 65, EU court says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - — Bloomberg News

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.

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