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European Court of Justice, Werner Fries case: The age limit of 65 years laid down in EU law for pilots of commercial air...

Mr Werner Fries was employed as a captain by Lufthansa until the end of October 2013 when he had reached the mandatory age limit of 65 years laid down in EU legislation for pilots of commercial aircraft (i.e. Point FCL.065(b) in Annex I to Commission Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011 of 3 November 2011 laying down technical requirements and administrative procedures related to civil aviation aircrew pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council).

Mr Fries assumed that such age limit at issue constitutes discrimination on grounds of age and infringes the freedom to choose an occupation.

According to the Court, it is true that the 65 years age limit establishes a difference in treatment based on age. However, that difference in treatment is justified by the aim of ensuring civil aviation safety in Europe.

The Court states, in that regard, that the age limit applies only to commercial air transport, which is characterized by a greater technical complexity of the aircraft used and a higher number of persons concerned than non-commercial air transport, and that the same age limit does not prohibit the holder of a pilot license, who has attained the age of 65, from acting as a pilot in ferry flights, operated by an air carrier transporting no passengers and no cargo or mail, or from working as an instructor and/or examiner on board an aircraft (provided that in such case he is not part of the flight crew).

The above said has been decided in Case C-190/16.

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