Transport: aviation in Australia

Clayton Utz

Clayton Utz is a go-to firm for aviation regulatory matters, including airspace approvals and applicable legislation, and is also an active player for aviation-related transport projects, notably acting for Transport for NSW on the Sydney Gateway Project. In Canberra, practice head Andrew Leece also works on aviation-specific agreements, commercial projects, government procurement, property and IT matters. His team represents both airlines and airports along with private sector airport operators and is also well-regarded for environmental matters, airport pricing agreements, airport leasing, precinct developments, security, and financing affairs.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Leece

Other key lawyers:

James Kendal; Simon Brady; Ellie Wallis

Key clients

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

Transport for NSW (NSW Government)

Avalon Airport

Brisbane Airport

Canberra Airport

Hobart Airport

Moorabbin Airport

Avalon Airport

Moorabbin Airport

Commonwealth of Australia represented by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Work highlights

  • Advising Deloitte, as voluntary administrators of Virgin and its subsidiaries, in relation to the voluntary administration and sale process of Australia’s second largest airline.
  • Continuing to act for a number of airport and other aviation clients in a variety of airports pricing & commercial agreements in the last 12 months we have negotiated agreements and provided advice on interactions with Qantas, Virgin, Atlas Air, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Citilink Indonesia and AirAsia X.
  • Advised Avalon Airport on the finalisation of a deal to introduce further international services to the airport by Citilink Indonesia.

HWL Ebsworth

HWL Ebsworth’s ‘extremely efficient’ transport practice provides a full-service offering to airports; it handles the full spectrum of operational, regulatory, and commercial matters including use agreements, property, and procurement requirements, airspace protection, construction matters, and safety compliance. The team likewise represents a number of leading airlines with Simon Liddy specialising in large scale accidents and Matthew Brooks focusing on passenger and cargo claims, collisions, ground handling agreements, and contractual disputes while also directing attention towards working for insurers. Richard Davis holds the distinction of representing the majority of the capital city airports while senior associate Kristin Hibbard is developing a formidable reputation for aviation liability claims. The practice also represents GA operations and aviation service providers with further expertise in assisting foreign carriers on their establishment at Australian airports. Named lawyers are based in Sydney.

Practice head(s):

Joe Hurley; Simon Liddy

Testimonials

‘I find HWL Ebsworth extremely efficient in handling volume liability cases.’

Key clients

International Airline

Air Pacific Limited trading as FIJI AIRWAYS

ST Engineering Aerospace Ltd

Newcastle Airport

Western Sydney Airport

Work highlights

  • Advised on the acquisition of significant high-value equipment for new Airbus A350 and Boeing 737 aircraft. These are new aircraft to the Fiji Airways fleet and required a number of substantial items of equipment to complete the aircraft and enable their operation and introduction into the fleet in 2019.
  • Advised the (Singaporean) owner of an Australian-based flight training school on the sale of all assets to an Australian airline, REX. This involved all commercial and financial issues as well as all regulatory compliance issues. The sale comprised a fleet of training aircraft, a flight training school, and all regulatory approvals required.
  • Completed the acquisition and initial planning approvals for the “Astra Aerolab”, owned by Newcastle Airport. The team advised on the acquisition and all planning and environmental matters on this strategic development at Newcastle Airport and adjacent to the Williamstown RAAF Base.

Norton Rose Fulbright

Praised for its ‘deep industry knowledge’ and ‘willingness to seek commercial, practical solutions’, Norton Rose Fulbright’s core expertise is spread across aviation operational systems, regulatory frameworks, cross-border transactions, and environmental matters. The department, fronted by the ‘intimate knowledge’ of Tom Young, is also extremely active when it comes to aviation-related banking and finance matters such as airport refinancing, aircraft leasing, and engine purchases. Young is an authority on both Australian and international regulatory regimes, he works from Brisbane alongside special counsel Julie Brown; clients cite her as ‘proactive and easy to work with’ with her practice spanning airport operation and privatisations as well as intrusions into prescribed airspace.

Practice head(s):

Tom Young

Other key lawyers:

Julie Brown

Testimonials

‘They have an intimate working knowledge of the Commonwealth Airport Lease and regulations.’

‘They have deep industry knowledge and a willingness to be commercial and work towards finding practical solutions and at all times ensuring the client interests are protected. Very considered in advice and is provided within good time frames. Quoted fees are always met.’

‘Julie Brown is very proactive, easy to deal with, and in-depth knowledge.’

Key clients

Hobart Airport

Lynden Air Cargo

Northern Territory Airports Pty Ltd

Orix Aviation

Perth Airport

Work highlights

  • Virgin Australia Airlines is the headline insolvency of the economic downturn created by the COVID pandemic, leaving 10,000 creditors owed almost AU$7bn, the team is acting for four separate aircraft/engine lessors in respect of the Virgin Australia administration.
  • Provided regulatory advice regarding operating non-PNG registered aircraft in PNG. The client wished to operate in PNG without having to apply for a PNG air operator certificate (AOC) given the time and cost involved in obtaining such approval.
  • Advised the Northern Territory Airports group (NT Airports) on the successful closing of its A$550m bank debt refinancing

Allens

The practice at Allens is geared towards airport advisory work, notably acting for Sydney and Brisbane Airports, in addition to other high-profile names. Its specialist knowledge is spread across corporate governance, competition, privacy, and development matters, among others, with specific work examples including renegotiations with airlines, leasing arrangement, infrastructure, construction and development projects, and environmental matters. Major financings in relation to drones, aircraft, and satellites are also integral to the practice which is fronted by Melbourne-based Emma Warren, a specialist in airport-related developments and property rights.

Practice head(s):

Emma Warren

Key clients

Australia Pacific Airports (Melbourne) Pty Ltd (APAM)

Perth Airport Pty Limited

Sydney Airport

New South Wales Rural Fire Service

Top Aces Inc

ANZ

Macquarie Aircraft Leasing

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Brisbane Airport

Work highlights

  • Advising APAC and APAM in relation to APAC’s participation in the AirRail Melbourne consortium’s market-led proposal to the Victorian Government for the implementation of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL).
  • Provided legal and strategic advice separately to both Melbourne Airport and Sydney Airport in relation to the enquiry by the Productivity Commission investigating whether the economic regulation of airport services promotes the efficient operation of airports and related industries.
  • Involved in the negotiation and preparation of new airline lounge leases for Singapore Airlines and an independent lounge for Swissport Pty Ltd together with office subleases for China Southern and Philippine Airlines and other leasing matters.

Clyde & Co LLP

Clients note Clyde & Co LLP as ‘providing fit-for-purpose, practical and highly specialised advice on complex aviation law matters’. In Melbourne, practice head Maurice Thompsonforges strong bonds with clients’, specialising in aviation liability claims, including cross-border, attritional, and catastrophic major loss incidents. He works closely with Ankush Chauhan, a senior associate well-versed in personal injury and property damage claims in addition to aviation-related compliance and regulatory affairs. The team is also engaged for commercial transactions and drone-related matters, acting for a client roster of flying schools, government agencies, and high-profile airlines.

Practice head(s):

Maurice Thompson

Other key lawyers:

Ankush Chauhan; Michael Tooma

Testimonials

‘The team at Clyde & Co is second to none, with its strong international connections and clientele.’

‘Maurice Thompson is a great partner who forges strong bonds with clients. James Cooper is also very user friendly and a pleasure to work with.’

‘Clyde & Co provided fit-for-purpose, practical, and highly specialised advice on a complex aviation law matter.’

‘The team at Clyde & Co have exceptional expertise and experience to provide highly specialised advice on complex aviation law matters.’

‘Professional team, prestige clients.’

‘James Cooper is a polished, intelligent individual who always gives thoughtful and pragmatic consideration to the issues in dispute.’

Key clients

Emirates

Qatar Airways

Alpha Flight Services Pty Ltd (Dnata Catering)

Malaysian Airlines

Learn to Fly Ptd Ltd

Work highlights

  • Working exclusively on all of Qatar Airways’ attritional claims in Australia, including passenger injury, baggage loss/damage, and cargo claims.
  • Acting for an inflight catering business (Alpha/Dnata) in response to various claims filed by workers in relation to personal injuries suffered at airport premises.
  • Continued to act on behalf of the airline in defence of various next of kin claims brought in Australia regarding the major loss of flights MH370 and MH17.

Mills Oakley Lawyers

Mills Oakley Lawyers represents both airports and aviation operators, acting for the former on infrastructure, operation, construction, and regulatory issues and the latter on all aspects of their service. The practice is particularly active when it comes to aircraft leasing and maintenance arrangements, industry-related fundraising and stock exchange listings in addition to aircraft financing and charter agreements, disputes, and industry-specific M&A. Sydney-based Gavin Douglas leads the department alongside Richelle Brost who operates from Brisbane; their team holds distinguished expertise of fixed and rotary wing airline operations and regulatory arrangements and further differentiates itself by acting solely for the industry’s private sector participants.

Practice head(s):

Gavin Douglas; Rechelle Brost

Key clients

Qantas Airways Limited

Regional Express Holdings 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 BMCS in relation to the leasing arrangements for 1 x AW139 helicopter, which were critical BMCS’ operations.
  • Advised BMCS in relation to the leasing arrangements for 2 x AW139 helicopters, which involved new lease arrangements from an existing lessor known to the Babcock Group and the creation of new security interests in favour of the principal security holder over the aircraft.
  • Advised Qantas on the contracting arrangements related to the introduction of Qantas Channel or the Qantas Distribution Platform, being a technology platform that facilitates retailing, booking and servicing capabilities with Qantas’ trade partners.

Minter Ellison

Hailed for its ‘depth of knowledge, principally in competition issues’, the team at Minter Ellison is also well-regarded by aviation and airport industry clients for procurement, construction, contract management, corporate, finance, and dispute matters, among others. Beverley Newbold leads the department from Sydney, holding the distinction of Qantas Airways on a number of high-profile litigious matters over the years. The group is particularly focused on regulatory matters, acting on airport and airspace regulation and clearances, as well as environment, noise, privacy, and data protection concerns. It also directs attention to the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and upgrading of airports, providing a cradle to grave service.

Practice head(s):

Beverley Newbold

Other key lawyers:

Russell Miller

Testimonials

‘Depth of knowledge in aviation, principally competition, issues. Fast and responsive in follow-up to clients. The overall quality of output showing the balance in appreciation of commercial objectives and legal precepts.

‘Depth of experience, thoroughness. Russell Miller is a preeminent competition lawyer.’

Key clients

Qantas Airways Limited

International Air Transport Association

Toll Group

Gold Coast Airport

Brisbane Airport

Townsville Airport

Western Australian Airport

Jetstar Group

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Airservices Australia

Brisbane Airport Corporation

Work highlights

  • Representing Qantas in relation to aeronautical charges by Perth Airport. It is the first time in Australia that an airport has commenced court proceedings against an airline in relation to the controversial and commercially fraught question of what is a fair and reasonable sum for an airline to pay for services and facilities made available by an airport.
  • Assisted IATA over the past four years with the development and, over the past year implementation, of the NewGen ISS project.
  • Trusted advisers to Airservices Australia regarding aircraft noise and remain the point of contact for all such matters

Colin Biggers & Paisley

Colin Biggers & Paisley brings distinguished expertise in aviation insurance claims to the market and is headed by Melbourne-based Andrew Tulloch; he is frequently engaged for a range of insurance policy interpretation and drafting matters and is also active on the disputes front where he primarily represents insurers though also has a track record of acting on behalf of those deceased or injured in aviation accidents. Other areas of prowess include aircraft leasing and finance, hull and liability claims following accidents, and the defence of air cargo damage claims.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Tulloch

Key clients

QBE Insurance

AIG Insurance

Lau, Horton & Wise (Hong Kong)

Work highlights

  • Advising QBE Insurance on claims arising from the 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.
  • 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 cargo of eyeliner pencils in air transit.

King & Wood Mallesons

At King & Wood Mallesons, the team supports airports, airlines and aircraft leasing and management on a range of relevant mandates. Examples include airport and asset financing, construction and property work, corporate and commercial matters, as well as aviation-specific regulatory and competition matters. Dale Rayner is the key contact.