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To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport his views on the ongoing crisis at a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) Ryanair

REPLY

Since Ryanair announced that it had made a commercial decision to cancel or suspend flights on a number of routes across it European-wide network, officials from my Department have been in regular contact with all the relevant entities including Ryanair, the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) and the Irish Aviation Authority.

I have also been in direct contact with the airline’s CEO and have expressed the Government’s concerns at the disruption caused to passengers by these cancellations, and I will continue to engage with the CAR and the airline to ensure that all Irish passengers’ rights are upheld and that any possible impact upon them is minimised.

The legal framework in relation to protection of air passenger rights in the event of cancellation, denied boarding and delay is set at European level and is governed by the provisions of EU Regulation 261 of 2004. This regulation provides for consumer protections which may include, depending on the circumstances arising, refund of airfares, re-routing either as soon as possible or at a later date at the passengers convenience, care and assistance and compensation.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) is the independent regulator for the enforcement of air passenger rights for flights out of Ireland, functioning as the national enforcement body for such matters. The CAR has been working directly with Ryanair since the announcements were made to ensure that the provisions of the regulation were correctly applied in respect of the passengers affected.

On Friday 29 September, CAR announced that it has secured agreement from Ryanair that it will comply with the regulations and directly provide affected customers with the necessary information on refunds, rerouting, care and assistance and compensation. Ryanair has also issued a public statement explaining to customers how and when they will be re-accommodated on other Ryanair flights or other airline flights as necessary. It is understood that Ryanair has also committed to provide weekly updates to CAR on the number of passengers entitled to compensation and expenses, the number of claims submitted and the number of claims closed-out.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation is part of a close network of national enforcement bodies across the EU, including the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in UK. It is noted that Ryanair has also recently replied to the UK CAA agreeing to meet its requirement for customer clarification on Ryanair’s obligations under regulation 261, which are in line with those requested by the CAR.

I am satisfied that the Commission for Aviation Regulation is working to ensure that passengers are dealt with efficiently and effectively to minimise disruption to affected customers and to ensure that their consumer rights are fully protected.

As to the cause of the cancellations, that is a matter for Ryanair to clarify and it would not be appropriate to comment on commercial or operational decisions of a private company. Matters concerning staff relations, recruitment, remuneration and other terms of employment are a matter for the company and its employees.

The cause of a flight cancellation is only subject to investigation by a national enforcement body where compensation is requested by passengers but contested by the air carrier. However where compensation is either non-applicable or the air carrier has agreed to pay same in compliance with its obligations, as is the case in this instance, further investigation is not undertaken by a national enforcement body as there is no legal basis to do so.

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For Oral Answer on : 11/10/2017
Question Number(s): 58 Question Reference(s): 42140/17
Department: Transport, Tourism and Sport
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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport if he has had discussions with the Commission on Aviation Regulation and the IAA in regard to the potential safety implications of atypical working conditions for pilots at some Irish airlines.

REPLY

Civil aviation safety regulations are set at European level by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and the same rules apply across the board to all registered European airlines.  There are also extensive international safety standards set by the United Nations agency ICAO.   In Ireland, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is the designated independent regulator of civil aviation safety regulation in accordance with ICAO and EASA rules and regulations.  In this role, the IAA is responsible for ensuring that all Irish registered airlines are in compliance, including with rules governing flight time limitations.

European flight time limitations are a key safety provision because they serve to restrict the number of hours that pilot and cabin crew can fly during a 12 month period to no more than 900 hours.  This is regardless of their contractual arrangement.  The Deputy should note that in addition to an annual upper limit on flight hours, the rules also cap daily, weekly and monthly flight hours.  I am advised by the IAA that all Irish airlines have always and continue to be fully compliant with the regulations governing flight time limitations.

The issue of atypical working conditions has been raised with me by the pilots’ trade union, the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association.  Terms and conditions of employment within a private company is a matter in the first instance between the company and its employees, governed by employment laws which apply the same in all industries.  It is not a factor under the European civil aviation safety framework.

More generally, it is also important to acknowledge that the IAA is a high performing regulator, whose safety oversight and inspection regime is subject to rigorous international, independent audit, which consistently confirms it amongst the very best aviation regulatory bodies.

For clarity, the Commission for Aviation Regulation is responsible for regulating certain aspects of the aviation and travel trade sectors in Ireland – it has no role in safety regulation.
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For Oral Answer on : 11/10/2017
Question Number(s): 66 Question Reference(s): 42142/17
Department: Transport, Tourism and Sport
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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the reason that neither a statutory instrument nor primary legislation has been introduced to give effect to EU Regulation 598/14 in relation to the establishment of a competent authority to deal with aircraft noise.

REPLY

As Deputy Daly will recall, in September 2016 I announced my intention to designate the Irish Aviation Authority as the competent authority under EU Regulation 598/2014, and so charge it with responsibility for managing aircraft noise.  The proposed nomination of the Authority for this function was in line with the approach in other European Member States, and it was broadly consistent with previous practice in assigning aviation regulatory functions to the IAA.

The most recent legal advices of senior counsel, engaged by the Office of the Attorney General, is that this approach is no longer advisable.  Influenced by recent case law at European level, which has laid out a more strict interpretation of on what constitutes “functional independence” within an organisation, the IAA is now deemed to have too much of a potential conflict of interest to take responsibility for  noise regulation, given its commercial interest in growth in traffic volumes at Dublin.

It is now clear to me that this Regulation requires primary legislation to ensure that its application is legally robust and that it is fully and clearly integrated with the planning system. Going down the secondary legislation route – which as I have said before is how EU regulations are normally implemented – is evidently no longer appropriate or sensible in this instance.

I have already instructed my Department to re-engage with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, as a matter of urgency.  There are a number of options.  I will talk to my two Cabinet colleagues, and once there is a decision on an alternative I will advise the Deputy and the House.

In light of this advice, I am now of the view that the best interests of all stakeholders – including the IAA, Dublin Airport and the local residents – that responsibility for the Regulation is better housed elsewhere.  I intend to consult further on this matter and will advise the Deputy and the House as soon as I have come to a decision.
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For Oral Answer on : 11/10/2017
Question Number(s): 9 Question Reference(s): 42143/17
Department: Transport, Tourism and Sport
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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport if the IAA remains the first choice as competent authority under EU Regulation 598/14; if not, the reason therefor; and when the decision will be finalised in the context of the ongoing development of the new runway at Dublin Airport.

REPLY

– 20171002 Supplementary – final.docx

I would like to thank Deputy Daly for the opportunity to provide an update to the House on this important issue.
As Deputy Daly will recall, in September 2016 I announced my intention to designate the Irish Aviation Authority as the competent authority under EU Regulation 598/2014, and so charge it with responsibility for managing aircraft noise.
The proposed nomination of the Authority for this function was in line with the approach in many other European Member States, and it was broadly consistent with previous practice in assigning aviation regulatory functions to the IAA.
This proposed approach was supported by legal advice at the time, and it was pursued by my Department as the most straight-forward way of activating the Regulation, and thus facilitating its timely implementation in Ireland, which is in everyone’s interest. The function was to be assigned to the existing regulatory division in the IAA, and it was to be managed on a functionally independent basis from the commercial activities of the IAA in the provision of air navigation services.
On foot of the most recent legal advices of senior counsel, engaged by the Office of the Attorney General, it is clear that this approach is no longer advisable. Case law at European level has now led to a more strict interpretation of on what constitutes “functional independence” within an organisation. The necessary staffing, reporting, accountability and funding arrangements required to meet the new benchmark of functional independence simply made the IAA no longer a viable option. In effect the requirements to ensure the independent exercise of the competent authority role would not be consistent with the principles of good corporate governance of the IAA as a whole.
I have already instructed my Department to re-engage with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, as a matter of urgency to consider the possible options for assignment of this role to an existing State body. I will talk to my two Cabinet colleagues, and once there is a decision on a new approach I will advise the Deputy.
Arising from the latest legal advice, the Deputy will also be interested to be aware that I now intend to implement the legislative changes, mainly and probably wholly, through primary legislation. The Attorney General had previously advised that the legislation could be substantially implemented by a Statutory Instrument under the European Communities Act. However in light of legal questions raised in the drafting process and taking account of developments since previous advice was given – not least that there are matters already before the courts in relation to the new runway at Dublin Airport – the latest legal advice is that the more secure approach now is to proceed on the basis of primary legislation. I clearly have no option but to follow this advice. While I am deeply frustrated at the delay that this gives rise to it will of course mean that the House will have the opportunity to examine the implementing measures in detail.