Lufthansa, Ryanair and Air Berlin have failed in a bid to claim EUR€3.25 million (USD$4.02 million in compensation from the German union of air traffic controllers (GdF) for threatening to strike last summer.
The GdF called for two six-hour strikes in August 2011 during the busy summer travel season to put pressure on their employer, the DFS air traffic controllers' authority, in wage negotiations.
Although the two strikes were both averted at the last minute, airlines and tour operators had already taken pre-emptive action to bring forward flights and rebook customers.
The airlines brought the case in Frankfurt, claiming that the act of calling the strikes was unlawful, but a judge ruled on Thursday that the union did not have to pay compensation.
The union had countered that the proposed strikes were aimed only at their employer and so the airlines should not be able to claim compensation, as they were not directly affected.
A lawyer for the airlines said it was likely they would appeal the decision.