Whitestone Barrister Mina Heung joins the Bar Council’s International Committee.

Congratulations are in order for Mina Heung on her successful application to the Bar Council’s International Committee. From 1 January 2020, Mina will be working on the International Committee to achieve the following aims:

  1. To promote the standing and the interests of the Bar internationally;
  2. To support the rule of law internationally;
  3. To keep abreast of international developments;
  4. To inform and educate the Bar about international developments and opportunities;
  5. To further the objectives above by cooperation between the Bar and legal professions abroad and by participation in the work of international legal associations and professional bodies;
  6. To influence international legal developments;
  7. To support the strategic aims of the Bar Council as published.

© 2019 Whitestone Chambers



From Singapore to Whitestone Chambers

Spending 2 weeks interning at Whitestone Chambers has been an immense blessing, and an invaluable learning experience.

Coming from Singapore, a jurisdiction that shares the common law tradition, I had a basic understanding of the legal system in the United Kingdom. My time in Whitestone Chambers has perfectly served to deepen my understanding and knowledge of the workings of the legal system here. Coming into this internship, one of my main objectives was to contrast and rationalise the legal system and culture in the UK with what I was familiar with in Singapore. I tried to be cognisant of this objective throughout my stint at Whitestone Chambers.

I particularly enjoyed visiting the numerous courts within and outside Central London. Undoubtedly, the judicial hierarchy and its jurisdiction is more complex in the UK. In order to attend the hearings of some cases it was necessary to take a train to the courts outside of London, a very foreign concept to a Singaporean.

The team at Whitestone Chambers assigned a variety of cases which ensured I had a wide breadth of experience in my short time here. From the Old Bailey, Kingston County Court to the Queen’s Bench Division at the Royal Courts of Justice, it was indeed exciting to see the law applied in action. To see young advocates in action in court was also particularly heartening. It was encouraging to see that the young advocates were given the trust and confidence to conduct cases on their own in court – something I do wish will happen more in Singapore.

Before every hearing, either Robert or Farrah would send me the case papers for me to read to understand the case better. Even before attending court, the Whitestone Chambers’ barristers still took the time to explain the case and their arguments to me. They were always enthusiastic to share and answer the questions that I had. I appreciated their frankness about the true prospects of the case that was placed before them to argue. After court they also took the effort to explain what the next steps were. It was very refreshing to hear their perspectives about their days as a student, doing the bar and their career at the bar.

While studying law, it is very easy to be drowned in textbooks and cases. This opportunity has allowed me to realise that the law is real and extends beyond understanding the ratio decidendi in Donoghue v Stevenson, or Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. Practising law requires one to remain relevant by being ready to read and understand areas of law that are unfamiliar. I enjoyed summarising the flight delay cases were assigned to me, it felt real and relatable. I enjoyed meeting clients, unlike the neatly typed out hypotheticals in law school, clients come in with random splatters of emotions and problems, and it’s your job to sieve through it.

Perhaps the main explanation why I enjoyed my stint at Whitestone Chambers should be attributed to the fantastic team I was working with. They made me feel as if I belonged even before I started, and they were always ready to give me guidance along the way. It was a joy walking into the chambers in the morning and being greeted with a wide smile. Working in a dynamic environment where everyone is passionate in their work there was never a dull moment. When everyone came down for the Christmas party on the 13 December, it was evident how fun-loving this bunch of people are.

Regrettably, I only had 2 weeks with this set of chambers, I wish it could be longer. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the past 2 weeks. Within this time, I have forged friendships, deepened my understanding of the UK, and cemented my interest in litigation. Perhaps one day I will be back.

© 2019 Whitestone Chambers



European Court of Justice rules on airport charges

On 7 November 2019, the European Court of Justice provided a preliminary ruling in Case C-379/18, between Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Berlin (Land of Berlin Germany), as to the interpretation of Directive 2009/12/EC in relation to airport charges [1].

Deutsche Lufthansa, in its capacity as an airport user, contested the approval of a new system of airport charges by Berliner Flughafen GmBH (BFG) for Berlin-Tegel Airport, which is managed by the Land of Berlin. The Land of Berlin as the independent supervisory authority had authorised a new system of airport charges with effect from 1 January 2015.

Accepting Lufthansa’s appeal, the referring court held that Lufthansa had standing to bring an action for annulment under German Law if the contested authorisation had an effect of giving rise to consequences under private law as the system of airport charges would directly affect Lufthansa in its capacity as a user. The following two questions were referred to the Fourth Chamber to provide a preliminary ruling:

(1) “Is a national provision which provides that the system of airport charges decided upon by the airport managing body must be submitted to the independent supervisory authority for approval, without prohibiting the airport managing body and the airport user from setting charges different from those approved by the supervisory authority, compatible with Directive [2009/12], in particular Article 3, Article 6(3) to (5) and Article 11(1) and (7) thereof?”

(2) “Is an interpretation of national law whereby an airport user is prevented from challenging the approval of the charging system by the independent supervisory authority, but can bring an action against the airport managing body and can plead in that action that the charges determined in the charging system are inequitable, compatible with the aforementioned directive?’”

With respect to the first question, the Fourth Chamber ruled that Directive 2009/12/EC precludes a national provision that permits an airport managing body from determining airport charges with an airport user that differ from those set by the independent supervisory authority. It ruled that Article 11(7) provides that the decisions of the independent supervisory authority should have a binding effect, without prejudice to parliamentary or judicial review. If the airport managing body and airport user were able to conclude independent contracts with each other that were separate from the independent supervisory authority, then its authority would be significantly reduced. Recital 2 of Directive 2009/12/EC required the establishment of a common framework regulating the essential feature of airport charges and the way in which they are set to promote the principles of consultation, transparency and non-discrimination of airport users, as laid down in Article 3, Article 6(1) and (2) and Article 7 of Directive 2009/12/EC.

Article 6(1) of Directive 2009/12/EC requires member states to make provisions for consultations between the airport users and the airport managing body as to the airport charges, whilst Article 6(2) of the Directive encourages member states to use a consensual approach while amending the system or level of airport charges, together with discussions as to the reasons for the proposed changes.

With reference to the second question, the court ruled that the interpretation of national law that an airport user can not challenge the decision of the independent supervisory authority that approves that charging system, but is able to bring an action against the airport managing body on the basis that the charges that the user must pay are inequitable, is precluded.


© 2019 Whitestone Chambers



Ryanair carry-on baggage charge is struck down as ‘abusive’ by Spanish Court

A passenger charged €20 by Ryanair to bring an item of carry-on luggage onto the aircraft, the dimensions of which were in excess of that outlined in the company’s general terms and conditions, has been refunded the charge plus interest following the judgment of a Spanish mercantile court.

Ryanair had pleaded that the passenger’s carry-on luggage exceeded the limits set out in section 8.3.1 of their General Terms and Conditions of Carriage:

8.3.1.     You may carry one piece of carry-on baggage on the plane, which must be no larger than 40cm x 20cm x 25cm. [1]

The policy which came into effect on 1 November 2018 means that any baggage in excess of the above dimensions requires the passenger to pay a €14 supplement to upgrade to “Priority”. The passenger’s baggage was in excess of these dimensions and they had not paid the supplement, and consequently was charged €20 to take their carry-on luggage onboard the aircraft.

The judge characterised the charge as “abusive, adding that it “curtailed the rights that the passenger has recognised by law”, and declared it invalid in Spain.” [2] The ruling of the court resulted in the budget airline being ordered to return the €20 plus interest to the passenger, however, the passenger’s claim of €10 as damages was denied, as the judge ruled that no damages had been caused to the passenger.

This ruling follows the Italian antitrust authority fining Ryanair €3m and Wizzair €1m in February of this year in relation to their cabin baggage policies which were seen as amounting to increasing the price of tickets, but doing so in a non-transparent manner. [2]

In a statement on Wednesday, Ryanair said: “This ruling will not affect Ryanair’s baggage policy, either in the past or in the future, as it is an isolated case that misinterpreted our commercial freedom to determine the size of our cabin baggage.”


[1] https://www.ryanair.com/gb/en/useful-info/help-centre/terms-and-conditions/termsandconditionsar_696869348


[2] https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2019/1120/1094121-ryanair-hand-luggage-fee/


[3] https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-italy-ryanair-court/italy-court-suspends-fines-to-ryanair-wizz-air-over-hand-luggage-policies-idUKKCN1R91XI

© 2019 Whitestone Chambers