International Jet Management wins court case, restrictions lifted on flights into Germany


IJM's Robert Schmoelzer (left) and Felix Feller (right)

International Jet Management wins a judgement in the European Court of Justice on flights in Germany.
IJM's Robert Schmoelzer (left) and Felix Feller (right)

International Jet Management’s Robert Schmoelzer (left) and Felix Feller (right).

International Jet Management GmbH (IJM) in Vienna, Austria has won a decision in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that should have implications for the free movement of air traffic into Germany.

After a five-year legal battle, the ECJ ruled that a series of fines levied on IJM were not justified and therefore, the requirement to obtain approval for inward flights into Germany must be lifted for the entire industry.

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IJM has a fleet of 31 business jets, ranging from Citations and Learjets to Challengers and Gulfstreams.

IJM wins dispute

Prior to the ruling, any operator flying into Germany from a non-EU country departure point had to apply to the German authorities (three days in advance of the flight) for permission to make an inbound flight and the carrier also had to furnish evidence that no German competitor would conduct the flight (declaration of non-availability).

This was a requirement that IJM – and many other European operator – was, in most cases, unable to meet for lack of time. In the absence of such permission, the authority would introduce fines against the carrier. Companies would be fined per flight due to the lack of permission for inward bound flights.

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Robert Schmölzer, managing director of IJM, said: “We guarantee our customers that we will be ready for departure within two hours after they book a flight. This is precisely what makes business jets attractive for the customers. For us, this authorisation requirement presented an obvious discrimination against competitors from Germany, prohibiting us from exercising our traffic rights.”

“It is unacceptable that the activities of a service provider that is established in another Member State and legally provides similar services there, are prevented or rendered less attractive by such restrictions,” added Schmölzer.

Proceeding started

In 2009, IJM lodged an appeal against the penalties for the first time. The subsequent legal dispute lasted for several years. In the autumn of 2011, the Oberlandesgericht Braunschweig finally referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling. The fact that seven governments of EU Member States issued statements during the Court proceedings shows how important this case is on a European level.

This decision should benefit the whole industry. Schmölzer said: “This is a huge success that benefits not only our company but all European air carriers flying into Germany from a non EU country. This is another important and right step toward the liberalisation of European air traffic.”

The decision should change the industry

Joachim Janezic, a Graz-based attorney and president of the Institute for Austrian and International Air Law, who represented IJM in the proceedings said: “The ruling means that operators may not be discriminated on grounds of nationality or the fact that they are established in a Member State other than that where the services are to be provided. All pending procedures must be terminated.”

Horst Nentwich, manager Flight Operations at IJM, said: “Our objective was to question this unacceptable situation in the interests of the entire industry.”

Janezic said: “This decision by the EJC has repercussions for European aviation as a whole. After all, such regulations do not only exist in Germany but also in many other Member States, to which the ruling also applies.”