Ryanair lost an EU court battle on Thursday in which the airline had sought to continue imposing business-friendly Irish labour laws on cabin crew working elsewhere in Europe, in a case with implications across the low-cost airline sector.
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled in favour of cabin crew based at the Irish carrier's Charleroi airport base in Belgium. The employees took the airline to a local court, believing Belgian law would be more favourable to them.
Ryanair argued that Irish law applied to their Irish contracts.
"The Court points out first of all that, as regards disputes related to employment contracts, the European rules concerning jurisdiction are aimed at protecting the weaker party," the Luxembourg-based ECJ said in a statement.
"Those rules enable inter alia an employee to sue his employer before the courts which he regards as closest to this interests," it said.
The ruling will come as a relief to cabin crew in Europe who are unsure what laws apply to them.
The crew involved in the case had employment contracts drawn up under Irish law which said their work was to be regarded as being carried out in Ireland since they were working on Irish-registered aircraft.
But in southern Belgium was designated as their base, meaning they started and ended their working days there and had to reside within an hour of that airport.