The second half of 2014 has seen a dramatic increase in competition law activity in all areas, from mergers, to State aid as well as private enforcement.
The European Commission ('Commission'), in particular, wrapped up no less than eighteen aviation related State aid investigations, perhaps reflecting the desire of the outgoing Commissioner's desire to clear the backlog of cases, but also probably relating to the Commission's adoption of the new Aviation Guidelines published in February this year and supplemented with new guidelines for rescue and restructuring aid to non-financial undertakings. Only four of the eighteen cases related solely to State aid granted to airlines and fourteen cases related to aid granted to airports with some cases also considering the potential State aid grated to one or more carriers operating at the airport.
With an increase in the number of follow-on damages actions (taken by those affected by allegedly anti-competitive activity) there has also been an increase in the number of judgments handed down and still awaited clarifying specific points of law, particularly at the moment surrounding the complainant's access to the Commission's decision and documents on its file. The Commission's airfreight decision is notable insofar as there are now follow-on damages actions being taken in Germany, The Netherlands, Norway and the UK, as well as in the US.
In the context of mergers, the Commission was notified of at least nine aviation related mergers, of which two related to airlines (Alitalia and CSA Czech Airways), two related to airports (in Croatia and the UK), four related to ancillary services (fuel, IT, pilot training and aircraft leasing) and final merger related to space launchers, satellite subsystems and missile propulsion.Air and Space Law