A Spanish court has ruled that giving pilots more in meal allowances than cabin crew could be tantamount to sex discrimination because the pilot workforce is predominantly male, whereas women make up the vast majority of cabin crew.
The case revolves around the regional Spanish airline Air Nostrum which operates flights on behalf of Iberia. Air Nostrum argues that differing allowance rates between pilots and cabin crew is because of separate contracts and collective bargaining agreements that aren’t comparable.
The case was brought by a cabin crew union that questioned why meal allowances should vary so much when flight attendants and pilots have to eat in the same places when they are staying in a hotel during a work trip.
A Spanish court ruled that sex discrimination definitely wouldn’t be an issue if both sides were paid the same meal allowances, but the court was less sure whether the two contracts actually amounted to sex discrimination.
As a result, the court has referred the case to the European Court of Justice to decide whether Air Nostrum could be held liable for indirect sex discrimination.
Air Nostrum maintains that the different contracts are legitimate because the ‘work value’ of pilots is different than cabin crew. Spain’s National Court remains unconvinced by this argument, maintaining that allowances shouldn’t form part of an employee’s remuneration.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the Spanish government are backing Air Nostrum but a final decision to take many months as it works its way through Europe’s highest court.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.