Ryanair Ltd v Aer Rianta Cpt

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeKeane C.J.
Judgment Date13 March 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] IESC 19
CourtSupreme Court
Docket Number[S.C. No. 195 of 2002]
Date13 March 2003

[2003] IESC 19

THE SUPREME COURT

Keane C.J.

Denham J.

Murray J.

RYANAIR LTD v. AER RIANTA CPT

BETWEEN

RYANAIR LIMITED
APPLICANT/APPELLANT

AND

AER RIANTA CPT
RESPONDENT/RESPONDENTS

Citations:

COMPANIES (CONSOLIDATION) ACT 1908

COMPANIES (CONSOLIDATION) ACT 1924

AIR NAVIGATION & TRANSPORT (AMDT) ACT 1998 S16(2)

EC DIR 96/67/EC

EC (ACCESS TO THE GROUND HANDLING MARKET AT COMMUNITY AIRPORTS) REGS 1998 SI 505/1998

AG V WILTS UNITED DAIRIES LTD 1921 TLR 884

MCCARTHY & STONE V RICHMOND UPON THAMES LBC 1991 4 AER 897

AIR NAVIGATION & TRANSPORT (AMDT) ACT 1998 S23(1)

AIR NAVIGATION & TRANSPORT (AMDT) ACT 1998 S23(3)

AIR NAVIGATION & TRANSPORT (AMDT) ACT 1998 S24(1)

EC (ACCESS TO THE GROUND HANDLING MARKET AT COMMUNITY AIRPORTS) REGS 1998 SI 505/1998 ART 13(1)

EC (ACCESS TO THE GROUND HANDLING MARKET AT COMMUNITY AIRPORTS) REGS 1998 SI 505/1998 REG 14

EC (ACCESS TO THE GROUND HANDLING MARKET AT COMMUNITY AIRPORTS) REGS 1998 SI 505/1998 REG 14(3)

EC (ACCESS TO THE GROUND HANDLING MARKET AT COMMUNITY AIRPORTS) REGS 1998 SI 505/1998 REG 14(2)

TREATY OF ROME ART 234

EC DIR 96/67/EC ART 16

CILFIT & ANOR V MIN HEALTH 1982 ECR 3415

Synopsis:

AVIATION

Airport charges

Aviation - Regulations implementing european directive - Construction of regulations in conformity with Community law - Validity of airport charges - Whether respondent entitled to recover rents for airport check-in desks without prior approval of Minister for Public Enterprise - Whether respondent entitled to impose administrative charges on users of airports - Whether such charges expressly authorised by legislation - Whether rules of conduct validly adopted by respondent - Whether respondent obliged to consult with applicant in relation to adoption of rules of conduct - Whether their adoption without prior consultation breach of fair procedures - European Communities (Access to the Groundhandling Market at Community Airports) Regulations, 1998 SI 1998/505, regulations 13(1) & 14 - Council Directive 96/67/EC - Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act, 1998, sections 16(2), 23(1) & 24(1) (195/2002 - Supreme Court - 13/03/2003)

Ryanair Ltd v Aer Rianta Cpt - [2003] 2 IR 143

the respondent is a public limited company in which certain functions are vested by the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1998. The applicant airline rented facilities at the respondent's airport for which various charges were imposed. In the High Court the applicant challenged the validity of those charges, inter alia, because the respondent had not obtained the approval of the Minister for Public Enterprise prior to their introduction. It also claimed that the respondent should have consulted with it before introducing rules of conduct in relation to the use of its airport. The applicant appealed the decision of the High Court refusing to grant it certain reliefs against the respondent.

Held by Keane CJ, delivering the judgment of the court, in adjourning the hearing of the appeal to allow the European Court of Justice make a preliminary ruling pursuant to Article 234 of the Treaty of Rome as to whether the correct construction of regulation 14 of the European Communities (Access to the Groundhandling Market at Community Airports) Regulations, 1998 required that the prior approval of the Minister for Public Enterprise be obtained before the imposition of rental charges for check-in desks by the respondent, that the correct application of Community law was not so obvious as to leave scope for any reasonable doubt as to the correct construction of regulation 14 in conformity therewith. In relation to the determination of the High Court vis-à-vis the validity of administrative charges imposed by the respondent, the respondent was created by the legislature as a trading company which was required to act in accordance with normal commercial procedures. Accordingly, the administrative charges imposed on the applicant were not an unauthorised exaction of a charge for the performance of the applicant's statutory functions. In relation to the adoption of rules of conduct by the respondent, the adoption of rules of conduct by the respondent was authorised by regulation 13(1) of the Regulations of 1998 and there was no obligation on a body charged with the introduction of regulations to consult in advance with those affected

1

JUDGMENT of the Court delivered the 13th day of March 2003, by Keane C.J.

2

This is an appeal from a judgment and order of the High Court (Butler J.) refusing to grant the applicant certain reliefs by way of judicial review against the respondents.

3

The background to the proceedings is as follows. The applicant is an airline which operates commercial flights into and out of Dublin Airport. It rents facilities at the airport including its head office, a hanger and (when these proceedings were commenced) fourteen check-in desks.

4

The respondent is a public limited company incorporated pursuant to the provisions of the Companies Consolidation Acts, 1908 — 1924. The shares in the respondent are held by or on behalf of the Minister for Finance. It is vested with certain functions by the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act 1998(hereafter "the 1998 Act") which also vested the ownership of Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports in the respondent.

5

These proceedings challenged the validity of certain charges which the respondent sought to recover from the applicant in respect of their operations at Dublin Airport and of "Rules of Conduct" introduced by the respondent in relation to operations carried out by the applicant, and other companies, at Dublin Airport. In a reserved judgment delivered on the 20 th February 2002, Butler J., rejected each of the claims of the applicant. While a number of issues were raised in the High Court relating to the validity of the charges in question and of the Rules of Conduct and were also the subject of the notice of appeal and, to a lesser extent, the written submissions lodged on behalf of the applicant, in the oral arguments before this court three matters only arising out of the High Court were the subject of challenge. They were the findings by the trial judge that

6

(a) The respondent was entitled to impose what was described as an "administration charge" on the applicant;

7

(b) The respondent was entitled to recover a rent from the applicant in respect of their exclusive use of check-in desks in the terminal building at Dublin Airport without first obtaining the approval of the Minister for Public Enterprise (hereafter "the Minister");

8

(c) The "Rules of Conduct" already referred to had been validly adopted by the respondent.

9

It is necessary at the outset to refer in more detail to the nature of the operation carried on by the applicant at Dublin Airport. The applicant is what is called a "self handler" i.e., it provides its own ground handling services in respect of the flights operated by it in and out of Dublin Airport. (Some airline operators do not supply their own ground handling services and are provided with them by suppliers of such services.) As part of the process of introducing a common air transport policy with the aim of completing the internal market in the European Union, the Council of the Union issued Directive 96/67/EC of 15 th October 1996 on "Access to the Ground Handling Market at Community Airports" (hereafter "the Directive"). This was designed inter alia to open up access to the ground handling market so as to help reduce the operating costs of airline companies and improve the quality of service provided to users of airports. The Directive was implemented in Ireland by the European Communities (Access to the Ground Handling Market at Community Airports) Regulations 1998 (hereafter "the Regulations"). The Directive and the Regulations will be referred to in more detail at a later point in this judgment.

10

The second of the two issues which were the subject of argument in this court will be dealt with last.

11

The first of the three issues which was the subject of the appeal was the imposition by the respondent of what was described as an "administration charge". This charge of IR£2000 in the then currency was, according to the affidavit of Ms. Margaret Sweeney in the High Court proceedings, intended to defray the costs incurred by the respondent...

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