Pilot termination at Air Berlin ineffective

The Federal Labor Court (BAG) has declared the termination of pilots of the insolvent airline Air Berlin ineffective. The reasons are formal errors in the mass layoff notification, the highest German labor judges in Erfurt justified their decision.

A pilot based in Düsseldorf had sued. The lower courts in North Rhine-Westphalia had dismissed his lawsuit against dismissal. Seven cases of the same kind were still being negotiated in Erfurt.

At the time of the bankruptcy in August 2017, Air Berlin is said to have employed around 8,600 people, including around 3,500 flight attendants. Around 1200 pilots are also said to have been affected – but many switched to other airlines.

Bulk redundancy notice incorrect

Numerous pilots went to court. They claimed that Air Berlin had not been completely abandoned, but at least partially transferred to other airlines. The dismissals are therefore ineffective. In addition, the mass redundancy notice was incorrect.

For the second reason, the BAG now approved the eight pilots. The reason is that companies have to register mass layoffs with the responsible local employment agency. This should give them the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming placements.

When the necessary notification of mass layoffs to the cockpit personnel was given, the insolvent company neither indicated the correct operation, nor informed the correct employment agency. The cancellations were made at the end of November 2017 due to the closure of flight operations.

In the specific case of the pilot from North Rhine-Westphalia, the notice of dismissal went to the employment agency at the airline’s headquarters in Berlin – according to the judges, however, it should have belonged to Düsseldorf.

Judgment may be transferable to cabin crew

The relevant company is decisive for such a mass redundancy notice. Air Berlin had referred to the “Operation Cockpit” because the pilots had an independent collective agreement.

The BAG also decided that the display should not have been limited to the cockpit staff. The floor and cabin personnel should also have been recorded. In May, the BAG wants to decide whether the pilot’s judgment can therefore also be transferred to the cabin crew. The BAG dismissed complaints from flight attendants for compensation in January.

However, the pilots and possibly the cabin crew cannot hope for much money. The insolvency administrator has already indicated that the money available so far is not even sufficient to cover the costs of the insolvency proceedings. There would be nothing left for employees and other creditors.

The BAG announced during the proceedings that no decision had been taken as to whether there had been an operational or partial transfer to other airlines.

(File number 6 AZR 146/19)

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