Ryanair looks to Brick Court silk to fight BAA

Cost-conscious Ryanair has just instructed one of the bar’s most expensive competition barristers, Brick Court silk Nicholas Green, to act in its dispute over fuel levies with the British Airports Authority (BAA).

One Essex Court barrister Stephen Auld QC – another pricey barrister – has also been instructed by the low-cost operator.
Ryanair is suing BAA for imposing allegedly exorbitant fuel levies; while BAA, along with Stansted Airport, is suing the low-cost flight operator for unpaid aeronautical charges.

It also emerged last week that a key issue between the parties over groundhandling regulations will be fought out at a hearing next month. Meanwhile, an application by BAA for a trial to take place on preliminary issues has recently been dismissed by the High Court.
Howrey Simon Arnold & White, Ryanair’s lawyers in the dispute, has been the operator’s main legal adviser for the past five years. However, last year Ryanair decided to instruct Weil Gotshal & Manges’ Brussels office instead of Howrey (which has a large presence in Brussels) in another competition case against the European Commission over state aid.

Howrey’s Ryanair contact partner Peter Fitzpatrick said: “We have an arrangement that they’ll give us all their substantial litigation.”
Ryanair instructs firms other than Howrey on smaller matters. Lane & Partners, for instance, was instructed in January 2003 to handle Ryanair’s 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.

Lovells, acting for BAA and Stansted Airport, has instructed Fountain Court’s commercial big gun Michael Crane QC.

The main trial will be heard in February 2006 for 25 days. Ryanair’s and BAA’s claims have been consolidated into a single action.

Lovells litigation partners Graham Huntley and Neil Mirchandani are advising BAA.