Ryanair flies in Weil to aid A&L in Brussels case

Ryanair has turned to Weil Gotshal & Manges for extra help against the European Commission over a state aid case involving the cut-price carrier and Brussels’ Charleroi Airport.

Although Ryanair has previously instructed the firm’s Frankfurt and Paris offices, this is the first time it has used its Brussels practice. Irish corporate firm A&L Goodbody was already advising on the investigation.

Weil Brussels partner Jon Filipek was instructed to prepare for possible litigation when the Commission drafted its statement of objections, indicating that Charleroi would have to revise a low-rate package it offered exclusively to Ryanair.

Filipek worked alongside A&L, which had been acting on the case for some time. Competition specialist Vincent Power led A&L’s team.

Last week the Commission ruled that the payments were illegal but did not order Ryanair to repay all its subsidies from the Belgian regional government, as it said some of Ryanair’s rebates were a permissible form of state aid. Power and Filipek are considering an appeal.

While Ryanair gives the bulk of its English competition work to Weil, historically US rival Howrey Simon Arnold & White has provided much of its UK litigation and competition advice. But Howrey has failed to land the Brussels instruction. The firm’s Brussels head Trevor Soames built his reputation advising major flag carriers while at his previous firm Norton Rose.

In January 2003, cost-conscious Ryanair turned not to Howrey but to Richard Venables, aviation partner at Lane & Partners, to advise on its complaint to the Office of Fair Trading over the Civil Aviation Authority’s decision to allow National Air Traffic Services to raise air traffic control fees.