Europe’s air traffic agency accused of giving Ryanair special treatment

A Ryanair Boeing 737 climbing steeply after takeoff.
Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – The European air traffic agency has been accused of providing Ryanair with special treatment after concerns were raised by a letter explaining Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s have direct access to the operations room at the agency’s base in Brussels.

Concerns arise

Concerns have arised after a letter seen by EURACTIV showed union officials stating that the agency’s director general, is providing Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s staff with exclusive and direct access to the operations room at the base in Brussels.

Concerns quickly arised after unions voiced theirs under a meeting on November 24, where Eurocontrol’s 41 member countries’ represantatives were, together with the unions.

Following the concerns, Eurocontrol as well as Ryanair have denied the accusations, rather saying the access is a part of a familiarisation-exercise which is open to all airlines. However, union bosses claim that only Ryanair has been offered the unsupervised access to the systems.

Staff freely approach Eurocontrol?

In a letter to Eamonn Brennan, Henk Korteweg, executive delegate for Union Syndicale Bruxelles, said that Ryanair staff are “freely approaching” Eurocontrol staff in the operations room “asking for preferential treatment for individual flights”.

Henk Korteweg followed up, saying that by giving Ryanair special treatment, Brennan is failing to respect the neutrality and impartiality of an international civil service.

The letter also states the following: “Your way of running the agency has shown to staff that rule-based working, neutrality and impartiality, all specific practices in international civil service, are no longer wanted as part of the Eurocontrol culture and fabric.”

In the closing statements of the letter, Henk Korteweg requests for Eamonn Brennan removes Ryanair staff from unsupervised access to the Operations Room and only allow access to operations staff via the same means as the other Airline Operators.

A quick note about the Union Syndicale Bruxelles – The Union Syndicale Bruxelles is part of the Belgian Federal Trade Union, bringing together unions who represent European civil service workers.

According to an anonymous staff member, it is not the first time Eamonn Brennan has “cosied up” on Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, in what is the latest in the long line of conflicts between the Irish low cost giant and its controversial boss.

Eurocontrol responds

When approached by EURACTIV, a Eurocontrol spokesperson claimes it is normal for airport and airline staff to have their presence at the Eurocontrol headquarters, further exclaiming that Ryanair has a temporary presence in an office alongside the Network Manager Operations Centre with supervision of the Eurocontrol staff.

In addition, the spokesperson said: “This temporary presence, which will conclude at the end of November, is part of a wider programme which will see other major airlines also participating in 2023 and beyond.”


Despite there being concerns around this accusation, the situations remains unclear in whether it is correct or not, as both Ryanair and Eurocontrol (Europe’s air traffic agency) reject the accusations, rather calling it an open practice for every airline.

However, Eurocontrol officials confirm of Ryanair’s presence at the headquarters, though being only temporarily and under supervision.

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