Freshfields client Monarch loses High Court battle over flight slots

Monarch has lost its battle to sell off its remaining airport landing slots after the High Court dismissed its appeal this morning.

Monarch’s administrator, KPMG, applied for a judicial review on whether the airline would be able to recover £60m from the slots, described as its last valuable asset.

Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Lewis found that the defendants, the Airport Coordination Ltd, did not have a duty to allocate the slots to Monarch and that in any event, the defunct airline fell outside the language of slot regulation.

“It is one thing to permit a ‘secondary market’ in slots,” the judges ruled. “It is another to extend it to companies in insolvency.”

They continued: “Whatever flexibility and discretion ACL enjoys in other circumstances to reserve (or postpone) a decision, it is no longer entitled to reserve its decision on the Summer 2018 slots on the facts of this case. That would be to sterilise or distort part of the market, to the potential detriment of third parties, for an uncertain period of time.”

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Craig Montgomery and senior associate Jonathan Pagan acted for the airline, which ceased trading last month, leaving 110,00 customers stranded overseas and an estimated 750,000 bookings cancelled.

The firm instructed Fountain Court’s Bankim Thanki QC, insolvency specialist David Allison QC and Brick Court‘s Malcolm Birdling.

Rupert Earle at Bates Wells Braithwaite (BWB) instructed Michael Crane QC at the same set for Airport Coordination Ltd, the body that services the aviation industry and is responsible for slot allocation.

DLA Piper acted for Manchester Airports Group, an intervener in the case, instructing Fountain Court’s Akhil Shah QC and David Murray.

The court granted Monarch permission to apply for a judicial review but put off a decision on their request pending a full judgment on the case.

The legal line-up

For the appellant, Monarch Airlines Ltd

Fountain Court’s Bankim Thanki QC and David Allison QC, alongside Brick Court’s Malcolm Birding, instructed by Freshfields’ partner Jonathan Pagan

For the respondent, Airport Coordination Ltd

Fountain Court’s Michael Crane QC and Alexander Milner, instructed by Bates Wells Braithwaite partner Rupert Earle