Ryanair and Crewlink are both established as companies under Irish law and have their registered offices in Ireland. Crewlink recruits and trains cabin crews, and both Crewlink and Ryanair recruited Portuguese, Spanish, and Belgian employees as members of Ryanair cabin crews between 2009 and 2011.
All of these contracts of employment gave Charleroi airport in Brussels as the employees' home base where they would start and end each day's work, and required the employees to live within one hour of the airport.
When six employees of the two companies took their employers to court in 2011, they did so in the Belgian courts. However, the Mons Higher Labour Court in Belgium felt there was some doubt as to its jurisdiction and referred a question to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over the concept of the 'place where the employee habitually carries out his work' in the air navigation sector.
In his non-binding opinion on the case, the advocate general said that the CJEU should apply settled case law on contracts of employment performed in more than one EU country, and rule that the court with jurisdiction is the court of the "place where or from which the employee actually performs the essential part of his duties vis-à-vis his employer".
In deciding that place, the court should take into account where the worker starts and ends his days, where he is given instructions from his employers and organises his working day, where he is contractually required to reside, where an employer's office is situated, and where he must attend if he is unfit for work or in the event of disciplinary problems.
It is for the Mons Higher Labour Court to apply those criteria, the advocate general said, but those points "unequivocally designate the courts of the place where Charleroi Airport is situated".
The fact that the worker is employed by Ryanair or Crewlink is not relevant in the circumstances, and the nationality of the aircraft on which the staff work cannot be taken into account when determining where the employees habitually work, the advocate general said.
Opinions of advocates general are not binding on the court, but are followed in the majority of cases.