The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) is claiming a “a major legal victory” over Ryanair in an initial court battle over the low-cost carrier’s ‘blacklisting’ of pilots choosing to go on strike.

Industrial action was launched by 29 Balpa members in 2019 after each had their staff travel benefits removed in retaliation for striking.

The pilots union, which has 10,000 members, said its members claimed the threatened, and actual, removal of those benefits was unlawful and that Ryanair’s actions contravene the relevant law, that a worker has a right not to be subjected to any detriment for taking part in trade union activities.

They argued they were illegally ‘blacklisted’ by Ryanair which used a ‘prohibited list’ in determining who to punish, contravening the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010.

Following a two-day preliminary hearing, the Employment Tribunal has robustly rejected Ryanair’s technical legal submissions that the relevant legislation does not apply in this case.

The tribunal rejected an attempt by Ryanair to re-argue the lawfulness of the strike action itself, having been defeated by Balpa in their attempt to obtain an interim injunction to restrain the strike in August 2019 and subsequently deciding to abandon its High Court proceedings against Balpa.

Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “This is a landmark legal decision, the effects of which go beyond Ryanair and the airline industry to the trade union movement as a whole.

“In particular, by ruling that the claimants were taking part in trade union activities by going on strike, the tribunal has fired a loud warning shot across the bows of employers who try to punish employees for striking by subjecting them to detrimental treatment.

“The proceedings will now continue to a full hearing where the tribunal will rule substantively on whether Ryanair did breach the law as we believe they did.”

Travel Weekly has approached Ryanair for comment.