Leading aviation and other transport and logistics enterprises have relied on WilmerHale over the years for advice and representation on a wide range of European Union (EU) and Member State economic, safety, environmental and other sector-specific regulatory issues. In addition, we are regularly involved in high-profile state aid and antitrust and competition law proceedings involving our aviation and logistics clients in the EU and its Member States. Clients include international airlines, airline associations, airports, aircraft manufacturers, aircraft MRO services provider and other aviation businesses as well as railway companies, railway equipment manufacturers, postal and express delivery services and other logistics service providers. We also work for Member State governments, the European Commission and multinational aviation organizations in regard to sector-specific issues. More information about our global Aviation practice can be found here.
WilmerHale's regulatory specialists in Europe have counseled airlines and other aviation clients on international and EU rules on operating licenses, traffic rights, foreign ownership restrictions, airport charges, and pricing for passengers and cargo; the EU computer reservation systems regulation; the EU ground-handling regulation and the EU slot regulation, including the ability of airlines to trade airport landing and take-off slots. Our International Trade, Investment and Market Access practice has assisted clients in the aviation and logistics sector to comply with EU and Member State national security-related rules, including anti-terrorism measures and export control. Finally, we have represented aviation and logistics clients in private and regulatory litigation both before the EU courts and before national courts, including before the German Supreme Court.
With a premier Antitrust and Competition practice in Europe, WilmerHale has acted for major European airlines in numerous proceedings before the European Commission, national competition authorities and EU and national courts to obtain approval for some of the largest airline mergers in Europe and to secure immunity for major airline alliances. We have defended airlines against allegations of unfair pricing and represented them in worldwide cartel investigations. Our State Aid team has also been involved in a series of EU state aid cases in the aviation and logistics sector before the European Commission and before the EU courts in Luxembourg.
Our European aviation and logistics team also has expertise advising clients from both the private sector and from government, including the European Commission, in the policymaking and legislative processes. As a result, we can provide in-depth insight into these processes. In this regard, our clients benefit from the experience that a number of our colleagues have had in senior positions in government, including Matthias Wissmann as German Federal Minister of Transport, Claus-Dieter Ehlermann as Director-General for Competition and Head of the Commission's Legal Service, and Martin Seyfarth as Chief of Staff in the German Federal Ministry of Transport. Our aviation and transport policy work includes advice with respect to the unbundling of networks and operations in the European railway market, the negotiation of air service agreements, the liberalization of the transatlantic aviation market, the implications of the European Court of Justice's "Open Skies” judgments, the resolution of intergovernmental disputes and the reform of the European airspace management and design with a view to creating a "Single European Sky.”
Finally, WilmerHale's broad regulatory and policy expertise in aviation and logistics and our insight into these industry sectors helps our clients achieve favorable commercial outcomes when structuring joint ventures, strategic alliances and other cooperative arrangements, when negotiating mergers and acquisitions or other transactions, and when designing distribution, agency and maintenance agreements. Working hand-in-hand with our Corporate and Transactional lawyers, our aviation regulatory and policy specialists ensure compliance with the complex regulatory environment in the aviation and in other transport industries, without losing sight of the commercial goals of our clients.
In some recent and significant cases concerning the aviation and logistics industry, our European lawyers have:
- Completed a detailed analysis of the EU rules concerning the unbundling of railway infrastructure management and railway operations for a major European railway company in the context of a series of infringement proceedings initiated by the European Commission against almost all EU Member States concerning the implementation of the EU's First Railway Package.
- Represented a large Swiss hub airport before the European Commission and the German courts, including the German Supreme Court, in a dispute on the use of the airspace of Germany for approaches to and departures from the airport, including advice on negotiations on a bilateral treaty and on strategic options.
- Represented a plastic materials producer before the Kassel Administrative Court of Appeals in litigation against Germany concerning the compatibility of departure routes from Frankfurt airport across the client's chemicals plant with the EU Directive on the Control of Major Accident Hazards.
- Represented major US and European airlines in a series of high-profile slot exchange transactions at the UK's London Heathrow airport.
- Represented an airport in connection with the organization of the selection of ground-handling service providers and ensuing litigation before the national courts.
- Completed a comprehensive study on European air space management and design, leading a consortium of legal, technical and policy experts. The recommendations of the study laid the ground for and are reflected in the EU regulatory framework for the creation of a single European sky.
- Assisted in establishing a startup airline in a new EU Member State (including provision of regulatory, corporate and financial advice).
- Provided comprehensive transactional and regulatory advice to an EU Member State government concerning the successful privatization of its national airline by international competitive tender process.
- Represented an intervener in proceedings before the European Court of First Instance concerning the European Commission's decision prohibiting preferential landing charges for Ryanair at Charleroi airport as illegal state aid.
- Represented a leading German airline and other airlines in several landmark litigations before the Düsseldorf Court of Appeals and the Düsseldorf Court of First Instance concerning landing fees at an international airport in Germany.
- Represented a leading German airline in highly complex merger review proceedings in a series of high-profile airline mergers before the European Commission and other antitrust authorities worldwide.
- Advised a leading German airline on aviation regulatory, competition and corporate law aspects of its acquisition of a substantial minority ownership interest in jetBlue Airways, the US low-cost airline. The transaction represents the first major investment by an EU airline in a US airline following the 2007 signing of the EU-US open skies air transport agreement.
- Represented a major international airline in connection with industry-wide investigations by the European Commission and other antitrust authorities worldwide relating to the imposition of fuel and other surcharges on air cargo rates.
- Represented Boeing in connection with the US challenge in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to European subsidies to large civil aircraft.