Transport: aviation in Australia

Clayton Utz

The powerhouse transport and logistics team at Clayton Utz remains a market leader, advising major airports, airlines, and governmental agencies on large-scale transportation projects. Led by aviation and airports law authority Andrew Leece, the group’s work extends to acting for Hobart International Airport, Brisbane Airport, Transport for New South Wales, and Rail Projects Victoria. The team offers a broad range of services, including advising on regulatory compliance, environmental matters, governmental interactions, strategic planning, airline pricing agreements, and corporate restructuring. The group is supported by newly promoted partner James Kendal, whose recent experience includes advising Deloitte on the administration of Virgin Australia, and senior associate Sarah Jones, who is an airport infrastructure specialist. All named lawyers are based in the Canberra office.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Leece

Other key lawyers:

James Kendal; Sarah Jones


‘Great understanding of the domestic aviation environment and legislation plus strong contacts across the Australian aviation network.’

‘Andrew Leece has a strong understanding of our business and our approach to aviation matters, which is overlaid with an excellent knowledge of the Australian aviation environment and relevant legislation.’

‘Knowledge of the subject matter and availability at short notice. They also understand our business very well and what our business objectives are.’

‘Clayton Utz are adaptable and able to respond really quickly to requests for advice.’

‘I have valued the promptness, adaptability, and clear, concise advice provided by both Andrew Leece and Sarah Jones. No job is too big or small and they always meet challenging deadlines.’

Key clients

Virgin Australia Holdings Limited (Administrators Appointed) ACN 100 686 226 and subsidiaries

Rail Projects Victoria (Victorian Government)

Hobart International Airport Pty Ltd

Moorabbin Airport Corporation Pty Ltd

Transport for New South Wales (New South Wales Government)

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc.

Avalon Airport Australia Pty Ltd

Avalon No. 1 Pty Ltd

Brisbane Airport Corporation Pty Ltd

Capital Airport Group Pty Limited

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (Commonwealth Government)

Department of Jobs, Precincts & Regions (Victorian Government)

Eagle View Technologies, Inc.

Essendon Airport Pty Ltd

Goodman Property Services (Aust) Pty Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advised Deloitte, as voluntary administrators of Virgin and its subsidiaries, on the voluntary administration and successful sale process of Australia’s second largest airline.
  • Acted for Rail Projects Victoria (Victorian Government) on the development of agreements with both the Commonwealth and Australia Pacific Airports (Melbourne) Pty Ltd, and the provision of strategic advice in respect of the development and operation of a new rail link on the airport site which will be the key link between Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport and the Melbourne CBD.
  • Advising the State of Victoria on the Victorian bid (post EOI) in relation to the Qantas Group’s review of its property and asset holdings.

HWL Ebsworth

The transport team at HWL Ebsworth remains a market leader in aviation, advising Australian airports and major local, domestic, and international airlines involved in high-value cross-border disputes and infrastructure projects. In the Sydney office, an experienced group led by national transport group head Joe Hurley and head of aviation Simon Liddy advises such clients as Sydney Airport, Melbourne Airport, Cathay Pacific Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Fiji Airways on a diverse spectrum of matters. These include commercial agreements, airspace protection, civil aviation regulatory compliance, recovery actions, and emergency response. The team is supported by airport construction authority Richard Davis, airline liability expert Matthew Brooks, and senior associate Kristin Hibbard, who specialises in aviation litigation.

Practice head(s):

Joe Hurley; Simon Liddy


‘The HWLE aviation team has provided us with advice in many different areas of aviation law, including personal injury, cargo related matters and a number of passenger compensation claims. The quality of their advice has been of significant value to our company and has been sustained for a long period.’

‘Simon Liddy’s knowledge of aviation law is beyond question. He is personable, reliable and his advice is easily interpreted and understood.’

Key clients

Gold Coast Airport Pty Ltd (part of Queensland Airports Limited)

ST Engineering Aerospace Ltd (wholly owned sub of ST Engineering, listed on Singapore Stock Exchange)

Singapore Airlines

Cathay Pacific Airways

Singapore Airlines

Fiji Airways

Japan Airlines

Sydney Airport

Perth Airport

Hobart Airport

Singapore Airlines

Melbourne Airport

Newcastle Airport

Western Sydney Airport

Brisbane Airport

Gold Coast Airport

Darwin Airport

Adelaide Airport

Ayers Rock Airport

Wellcamp (Toowoomba) Airport

Work highlights

  • Advising Gold Coast Airport Pty Ltd (part of Queensland Airports Limited) on negotiating with the Department of Home Affairs all of the arrangements for international passenger processing by the various Commonwealth agencies in the new international terminal being constructed by GCAPL at Gold Coast Airport.
  • Advising ST Engineering Aerospace, one of the largest MRO organisations in the world, on rights to retain aircraft and engines on which substantial maintenance had been performed, in circumstances where there was a conflict between the owner and lessees of the aircraft and engines, and where one of those parties was subject to an administration in insolvency in Australia.
  • Acting for Cathay Pacific Airways in claims brought by P&D Service Co Limited, Havi Global Solutions (Asia Pacific) LLC, Havi Freight Management (S) Pte Limited and OSI International Foods (Australia) Pty Ltd in respect of alleged temperature damage to 9 consignments carried from Sydney to Incheon in 2017.

Norton Rose Fulbright

The aviation team at Norton Rose Fulbright remains a market leader, advising major airports, airlines, and financial institutions involved in high-value cross-border transactions and disputes. Headed from the Sydney office by insolvency and restructuring experts Noel McCoy and Dr David Goldman, the team represents key market players Delta Airlines, Qantas Airways, Wells Fargo, and Hobart Airport, advising them on a broad range of matters. These include regulatory compliance, airport refinancing, the leasing of aircraft, liability claims, and environmental impact issues. The group is supported by banking and finance partner Alen Pazin in the Perth office and senior associate Olivia Newman in Sydney.

Other key lawyers:

Alen Pazin; Olivia Newman

Key clients

Aircastle, Aviation Capital Group LLC

Aviation PLC

Delta Airlines

Essendon Airport

Flight Safety Foundation

Hobart Airport

Lynden Air Cargo

North Queensland Airport Finance Pty Ltd

Northern Territory Airports Pty Ltd

Orix Aviation

Perth Aircraft Leasing (UK) Limited (Global Knafaim Leasing Ltd)

Perth Airport

Qantas Airways

Wells Fargo Trust Company, National Association (trustee)

Willis Lease Finance Corporation

Work highlights

  • Acting for Willis Lease Finance Corporation (the lessor), the owner of four aircraft engines that were leased to Virgin, and Wells Fargo Trust Company, National Association (the trustee) in a dispute with the administrators of Virgin Australia.
  • Acting for five separate aircraft/engine lessors in respect of all aspects of the administration, deed of company arrangement and now the Project Volar Creditor’s Trust (which has been capitalised with approximately $500m following the completion of the restructuring of the Virgin Australia group) relating to the administration of Virgin Australia.
  • Advised North Queensland Airports on the successful closing of its AU$750m secured loan facility


The experienced team at Allens advises major Australian airports and investors on commercial transactions. In the Melbourne office, Emma Warren, who has assisted such clients as Melbourne Airport and Sydney Airport on terminal redevelopment arrangements and aeronautical services agreements, is a key contact.

Work highlights

    Clyde & Co LLP

    The aviation team at Clyde & Co LLP counts government agencies, major international airlines, flight schools, and insurers among its clients, advising on a broad spectrum of matters, including regulatory compliance, high-value liability claims, commercial transactions, and risk issues surrounding the usage of drones on a global scale. Led by aviation industry expert Maurice Thompson, who also chairs the firm’s global drones group, the team’s client portfolio includes high-profile names such as Emirates and Qatar Airways. The team is backed by special counsel James Cooper, who specialises in airline insurance litigation. All solicitors mentioned are based in the Melbourne office.

    Practice head(s):

    Maurice Thompson

    Other key lawyers:

    James Cooper


    ‘Highly professional and organised. Elite carrier clients.’

    ‘James Cooper is highly skilled and professional. He has a calm and unflappable demeanour which is an asset for any litigator. His specialised knowledge of aviation conventions and case law is superior.’

    Key clients

    Pacific Aviation Safety Office

    Dnata Airport Services Pty Ltd

    Alpha Flight Services Pty Ltd (Dnata Catering)


    Qatar Airways

    South African Airways

    Work highlights

    • Defended a claim brought by a passenger alleging food poisoning following consumption of an in-flight meal on a Qatar Airways flight.
    • Engaged by AvLaw Pty Ltd to produce a report for the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) on the subject of Drones Compulsory Third-Party Liability Insurance and related liability issues.
    • Defended a claim brought by a passenger for serious injury arising on an Emirates international flight.

    Mills Oakley Lawyers

    The experienced lawyers at Mills Oakley Lawyers advise on a wide span of aviation industry issues, including M&A, aircraft finance and leasing, construction contracts, competitive tenders, dispute resolution, maintenance arrangements, and regulatory compliance for a client list which features major airports and operators. The team is led by aviation service expert Gavin Douglas in the Sydney office, and Rechelle Brost, who specialises in construction transactions, in Brisbane. The team represents such key industry players as Qantas Airways, Cobham Aviation Services Australia, and the Brisbane Airport Corporation.

    Practice head(s):

    Gavin Douglas; Rechelle Brost


    ‘They have a good reputation, with expertise in aviation industry matters. Comprehensive reports and advice are provided. Good customer service and follow up from the partner.’

    ‘Gavin Douglas provides excellent client service and is a good problem solver, with the ability to play devil’s advocate and take on multiple viewpoints.’

    Key clients

    Qantas Airways Limited

    Cobham Aviation Services Australia Pty Ltd / National Jet

    Systems Pty Ltd

    Babcock Mission Critical Services Australasia Pty Ltd

    Babcock Offshore Services Australasia Pty Ltd

    Sydney Seaplanes Pty Ltd

    Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia

    Oil Search Limited

    South Star Aviation Pty Ltd

    Brisbane Airport Corporation

    Archerfield Airport Corporation

    Work highlights

    • Advised National Jet Systems Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cobham Aviation Services Australia Pty Ltd, on the cross-border lease of a Bombardier DHC-8 Q400 aircraft from part of the group led by Chorus Aviation Capital (Ireland) Limited.
    • Advising in relation to the International Apron Pavement Project, including contract and liability structuring.
    • Advising in relation to the development of the Transition Estate at Archerfield Airport.

    Minter Ellison

    The aviation industry group at Minter Ellison advises major airlines, airports, and government agencies involved in regulatory matters, infrastructure projects, and high-value disputes. Led by commercial litigation expert Beverley Newbold from the Sydney office, the team represents such clients as Qantas Airways, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Gold Coast Airport, and Brisbane Airport, on a diverse array of issues. These include procurement, corporate governance structures, financing, airport operations, leasing, and public sector requirements. The group is backed by aviation regulatory specialists Russell Miller in Canberra and Haydn Flack in Sydney.

    Practice head(s):

    Beverley Newbold

    Other key lawyers:

    Russell Miller; Haydn Flack


    ‘Good depth of knowledge about the aviation ecosystem. Thorough, in-depth analysis and promptness of response.’

    ‘Russell Miller stands out for his pre-eminence in competition law matters.’

    Key clients

    Qantas Airways Limited (Qantas)

    International Air Transport Association (IATA)

    Toll Group

    Australian Airports including Gold Coast Airport; Brisbane Airport; Townsville Airport; Western Australian Airport

    Jetstar Group

    Civil Aviation Safety Authority

    Airservices Australia

    Brisbane Airport Corporation

    Work highlights

    • Represented Qantas Group in a matter before the Western Australian Supreme Court in relation to aeronautical charges by Perth Airport Pty Limited (Perth Airport).
    • Acted for Airservices Australia on its OneSKY Program, which is a partnership between Airservices and the Department of Defence.
    • Acts on behalf of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in aircraft crash investigations, inquests and proceedings, including for hull loss claims, and in claims for compensation.

    Colin Biggers & Paisley

    The transport and logistics team at Colin Biggers & Paisley advises airlines, airport operators, regulators, and insurers on a diverse range of aviation matters. These include loss of licence, accident liability and cargo damage claims, class action property disputes, the delivery of supplies to offshore oil platforms and warzones, and aircraft leasing and finance. Headed by trade and transport law expert Andrew Tulloch, the group’s portfolio includes QBE Insurance, HDI Global Specialty, and Stratos Aviation Group. The team is backed by transport insurance specialist Marcus Saw and special counsel Alistair Boughton. The practice was honoured with a Gold ranking in the 2021 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) for its commitment to LGBTQ workplace inclusion. All lawyers mentioned are at the Melbourne office.

    Practice head(s):

    Andrew Tulloch

    Other key lawyers:

    Marcus Saw; Alistair Boughton

    Key clients

    QBE Insurance

    HDI Global Specialty

    Stratos Aviation Group


    Work highlights

    • Acting for QBE Insurance in relation to an accident at Essendon Fields on 21 February 2017 when a Beechcraft B200 Super King Air with a pilot and four Texan passengers on board crashed shortly after take-off into a shopping complex adjacent to the airfield, killing all on board and leading to numerous claims.
    • Acted on behalf of the insurers of Havi GS Asia Pacific (S) and a related company in an action seeking recovery of loss and damage suffered when a substantial shipment of beef patties that were carried by air from Australia to Korea via Hong Kong apparently suffered temperature damage during transit.
    • Acting for AIG in relation to a claim against Air India for heat damage to a cargo of eyeliner pencils in air transit.

    King & Wood Mallesons

    The team at King & Wood Mallesons specialises in aviation finance, advising operators, arrangers, and financial institutions on building tax-conscious structures for the funding of aircraft. The group coordinates its offices in Australia, Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Europe to advise a client base that includes key players such as Qantas and Virgin. John Canning in Sydney is a key contact.

    K&L Gates

    The experienced group at K&L Gates advises international, national, regional, and commuter airlines, major airports, high-profile corporations, and private individuals on a broad spectrum of aviation issues. These include aircraft acquisitions and finance, regulatory compliance, environmental matters, insurance defence litigation, aviation employment matters, and drone-related law. The team is led from the Brisbane office by regulatory expert Tom Young, who joined the firm in April 2021 from Norton Rose Fulbright, along with special counsel Julie Brown. The team’s client portfolio features key hubs Sydney Airport, Brisbane Airport, and Cairns Airport.

    Practice head(s):

    Tom Young

    Other key lawyers:

    Julie Brown


    ‘The practice’s team consists of experienced, well-versed professionals. They make cogent arguments with respect to legal frameworks and suggest reasonable solutions to complex matters.’

    ‘Tom Young and Julie Brown have been primary points of contact. Both Tom and Julie are consummate professionals regarding aviation matters. Both are approachable and easy to deal with, and attentive to discussions, requirements, and outcomes while seeking specialist guidance for matters beyond the pure legal argument.’

    ‘My main contact was Tom Young. His strengths are an ability to grasp a range of complex issues that are outside of his normal expertise and manage a diverse group of experts across various disciplines to achieve a timely outcome.’

    Key clients

    Brisbane Airport Corporation

    Jandakot Airport

    Western Sydney Airport

    Cairns Airport

    Sydney Airport


    Work highlights

    • Advising Brisbane Airport Corporation Pty Limited in connection with the redevelopment of the Brisbane Airport Domestic Terminal Building.
    • Advising Sydney Airport on the leasing of terminals, airside sites and landside sites at the airport.