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“Flags of convenience”, the scheme used in the maritime sector to seek laxer regulatory, taxation and labour regimes, is threatening the European aviation industry. A joint declaration signed by the group directly representing both employers and workers in the industry warns against the rise of this new development: airlines using “Flags of Convenience” (FoC) undercut fair competition in the sector, avoid many regulations and scour the globe to exploit labour without European social rights and standards.

At a press conference on Friday, 11 July 2014 in Brussels, the EU Social Dialogue Committee for Civil Aviation presented a joint declaration warning that Flags of Convenience will lead European aviation to the fate of the decimated European maritime industry with almost no European crew left. A precedent now risks being set as one non-EU airline uses an Irish registration, despite having no Irish base, to fly within Europe and to the US, with Thailand based crews on a variety of Far Eastern contracts.

The inconvenient truth is that such companies are not creating new ‘business models’ in the market. Rather, they are exploiting regulatory loopholes and insufficiently coordinated legislation behind a distraction of publicity over a few cheap flights”, said Jon Horne, Vice-Chair of the Social Dialogue Committee. “They blatantly undermine the international rules and agreements designed to ensure fair competition and employment standards. If FoCs, what is in fact an ‘exploitation model,’ are not stopped now it will force currently responsible airlines into a race to the bottom and aviation jobs exit Europe for good.”

An airline using infrastructure, healthcare and education in Europe whilst not contributing to European social systems commits social dumping, and is parasitic on the responsible European citizens and businesses who effectively subsidise them,” said François Ballestero, Political Secretary for Civil Aviation at the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).

It is vital for our industry to remain competitive. But competition can only work if it is on a level playing field, with clear and simple rules applied to all,” said Emmanuel Jahan, Chair of the Social Dialogue Committee. “The European Commission has the power to decisively stop abuse and mockery of European legislation; we hope steps will be taken to guarantee the competitiveness of the European industry and the preservation of European jobs.”

The Social Partners call on the EU Commission and newly elected Members of the Parliament to take urgent measures against “Flags of Convenience”. Among the proposed changes are revision of legislation on visas and work permits for non-EU based crews, as well as clarity on ‘principal place of business for airlines’. 


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For further information, please contact:

Emmanuel Jahan, Chairman Social Dialogue, Tel. +32 473 938 433

Jon Horne, Vice-Chair Social Dialogue, Tel. +32 2 705 32 93

François Ballestero, ETF Political Secretary, Tel. +32 (0) 474 91 69 79


Note to editors:The Sectoral Social Dialogue Committees are the official EU representative forum for the socio-economic interests, established by Commission Decision of 20 May 1998. The Sectoral Social Dialogue for Civil Aviation is therefore the European Labour Management Body and expresses the genuine democratic position of employers and employees in the EU aviation sector.The European Cockpit Association (ECA), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the Association of European Airlines (AEA) are among the members of the Social Dialogue. Full list and more information avialable here.