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Foreign Air Carrier Economic Licensing

Overview

Any airline of a foreign country that wants to to conduct commercial operations in foreign air transportation to/from the United States must obtain two authorizations from DOT:

  • Economic authority from the Office of the Secretary of Transportation
  • Safety authority from the Federal Aviation Administration

Foreign air carriers must also meet licensing requirements of any other applicable U.S. Government agencies.

Definitions

Under Title 49 of the United States Code (the Statute), a foreign citizen or company that desires to provide foreign air transportation service as a foreign air carrier must first obtain economic authority from the Department.

  • A “foreign air carrier” is defined by 49 U.S.C. 40102(21) as “a person, not a citizen of the United States, undertaking by any means, directly or indirectly, to provide foreign air transportation.”

  • “Foreign air transportation” is defined by 49 U.S.C. 40102(23) as “the transportation of passengers or property by aircraft as a common carrier for compensation, or the transportation of mail by aircraft, between a place in the United States and a place outside the United States when any part of the transportation is by aircraft.”  Foreign air carriers that wish to conduct these services must apply to the Department for economic authority to do so.

Foreign Air Carrier Economic Authority – Applications for Initial Foreign Air Carrier Permits and Exemptions

Any foreign air carrier that wishes to provide commercial services in foreign air transportation to/from the United States must obtain "economic” authority from the Office of the Secretary of Transportation. Due to the scope and size aircraft operated by charter air taxi operators of Canada, the Department has provided simplified licensing requirements for those carriers. See 14 CFR Part 294.  Applicants from European Union (EU) Member States, Iceland, and Norway should also review the Application Procedures for EU Carriers, because the evidentiary submissions required in applications from these carriers are abbreviated as a resuly of the reciprocal recognition of fitness and citizenship between the U.S. and EU.

For foreign air carrier applicants, the economic authority applied for may be in the form of a foreign air carrier permit or an exemption.  Permit authority is longer in duration, typically indefinite in duration for services that are provided for in bilaterl aviation agreements, and 5 years for extra-bilateral services.  Authority by exemption may be awarded for a maximum of two years at any one time and can be renewed. To receive initial economic authority from the Department, a foreign air carrier must file in a public docket in www.regulations.gov a narrative application as outlined in 14 CFR Part 211 and/or 14 CFR Part 302 of our rules that provides information about, among other things, the ownership and the management personnel of the airline, its financial condition, its operating plan, and the ability of the company and its personnel to comply with laws and regulations. The foreign air carrier must also provide evidence of its operating authority from its homeland government and, in some cases, evidence of designation by its government to operate its proposed services.  In addition, while not an inclusive list, foreign air carrier applications must also contain information regarding the carrier's compliance with the following:

Family Support Plan requirements of 49 U.S.C. 41313

Energy information required by 14 CFR Part 313.5(a)

14 CFR Part 203 - WAIVER OF WARSAW CONVENTION LIABILITY LIMITS AND DEFENSES

14 CFR Part 205 - AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT LIABILITY INSURANCE

14 CFR Part 243 - PASSENGER MANIFEST INFORMATION

For detailed information regarding the required contents of applications and filing procedures for a foreign air carrier permit and/or exemption for initial economic authority, applicant carriers should review the:

The Foreign Air Carrier Licensing Division will review the contents of the application and determine if grant of the request is in the public interest.  Once a foreign carrier has been granted an exemption or permit, it may begin its U.S. services, provided that it has received safety authority from the FAA and is in compliance with the requirements of any other applicable U.S. Government agencies, including, but not limited to, the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection.

Obtaining FAA Authority

As noted above, the economic authority issued to foreign air carriers by DOT is separate from the safety authority (commonly referred to as Part 129 Operations Specifications) granted to foreign air carriers by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  For safety authority application procedures and related questions, carriers should contact the appropriate FAA field office based upon the geographical location of the carrier’s homeland.

Foreign Air Carrier Economic Authority – Other Common Types of Applications

The information outlined above and provided in the Foreign Air Carrier Licensing Packet is designed primarily to assist foreign air carriers in preparing applications for initial authority.  In addition to those applications, foreign air carriers that already hold valid DOT authority may need to file other docketed applications for additional, amended, or renewed exemption or permit authority.  In such cases, the application contents will differ from what is required in an application for initial authority, but must contain certain information as outlined in 14 CFR Part 211 and/or 14 CFR Part 302 of our rules, depending upon the type of the application.

Application Filing Instructions and Fees

All foreign air carrier permit and exemption applications (initial and otherwise) are docketed and can be filed electronically at www.regulations.gov.  Electronic filing instructions can be found here.  Additional assistance with electronic filing can be obtained by contacting the DOT Docket Management Office at (202) 366-9826.

Applications can also be hand-delivered or filed my mail.  The DOT Docket Management Office physical address is:

U.S. DOT Docket Management
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
West Building Ground Floor
Room W12-140
Washington, D.C. 20590

Filing fee payments, when applicable, must be made electronically at www.pay.gov.  Additional information on filing fees can also be found in 14 CFR Part 389.  Filing fees for foreign carriers from some countries are waived as a result of reciprocal filing fee waivers agreed to between the United States and the aviation authorities of its foreign partners.  Please view the list below for more information on the countries that hold waivers.

Foreign Air Carrier Economic Authority – Common Undocketed Applications

Prior to conducting certain types of charter and wet-lease operations, DOT-licensed foreign air carriers may require additional prior approval under 14 CFR Part 212.  In addition, foreign civil aircraft operators may apply to DOT to conduct certain limited U.S. operations under 14 CFR Part 375.  These types of applications are undocketed and may be viewed by the public by accessing the Department's Weekly List of Undocketed Applications Filed.

Charter Operations Requiring Prior Approval

In general, most foreign air carriers that hold DOT authority conduct charter operations between the United States and a 3rd country point (a point that is in a country other than in the foreign carrier’s homeland, such as 5th, 6th, and 7th freedom charters) are subject to another licensing requirement in addition to obtaining an initial exemption and/or foreign air carrier permit.  Such operations are subject to prior DOT approval and carriers must obtain a statement of authorization on a case-by-case basis prior to conducting these charters.

Most foreign air carriers holding DOT charter authority may operate charters between their homeland and the United States (3rd and 4th freedom charters) without additional DOT authority.  However, some foreign air carriers must obtain prior DOT approval for all charters, because of reciprocity or other public interest concerns.  If prior approval is required for such charter operations, the foreign air carrier’s DOT economic authority will be conditioned accordingly.   

See 14 CFR Part 212 for statement of authorization application contents and filing procedures.  All charter statement of authorization applications should be submitted using OST Form 4540.

Filing fees may be required, see filing fee section above. Applications and filing fee payment confirmation (if applicable) should be submitted by e-mail to the following:

Standard for DOT approval of these charter operations is a public interest test, and DOT will consider, among other things:

  • The extent to which the authority sought is covered by and consistent with bilateral agreements to which the United States is a party
  • Reciprocity for 5th, 6th, and 7th freedom charters (foreign air carrier’s homeland must file formal reciprocity declaration with DOT in Docket DOT-OST-2006-24269 and such statements must be updated every 6 months)
  • Reliance of applicant on homeland-U.S. charter traffic
  • Validity of any responsive pleadings filed to the charter application

Long-Term Wet-lease Operations

Wet lease operations typically involve an agreement between carriers where one carrier (wet lessor) provides aircraft and crew to another carrier (wet lessee) to operate services in foreign air transportation marketed and held out to the public in the name of the wet lessee.  For long term wet lease operations (an arrangement for more than 60 days or a series of such leases that amounts to a continuing arrangement lasting more than 60 days), the wet lessor must obtain authorization from the Department in the form of a Statement of Authorization.  See 14 CFR Part 212 for application filing procedures and 14 CFR Part 257 for disclosure requirements to consumers.

Applications can be submitted on OST Form 4540 or in narrative form. Filing fees may be required, see filing fee section above.  Applications and filing fee payment confirmation (if applicable) should be submitted by e-mail to the following:

Some additional information regarding wet lease operations follows:

  • Wet lessee must hold underlying economic authority (scheduled or charter) in the markets involved
  • The airline physically operating the aircraft (wet lessor) needs underlying charter economic authority
  • The airline physically operating the aircraft (wet lessor) also needs DOT prior authorization for:
    • any wet lease in a 5th, 6th, or 7th freedom market for the wet lessor (regardless of duration of agreement)
    • any wet lease of more than 60 days’ duration

Standard for DOT approval of wet-lease operations is a public interest test as noted above in the charter section.

In some limited instances, foreign air carriers may provide entire aircraft and crew to a U.S. air carrier for the U.S. carrier’s services in foreign air transportation.  Please see Docket DOT-OST-2008-0063 for additional guidance on this topic.

Applications under 14 CFR Part 375

Some foreign civil aircraft operators may want to provide only limited single entity charter operations to the United States on only an occasional basis and do not offer their services to the general public.  These are typically charter operations where the cost of the entire capacity of an aircraft is borne by a sole charterer and not individual passengers or shippers, either directly or indirectly.  Rather than having to apply for an exemption/permit as outlined above, these types of operations may meet the regulatory criteria set forth in 14 CFR Part 375.  Application procedures are outlined in Part 375 and additional information regarding these types of occasional planeload charters can be found below:

Part 375 also includes information on application procedures for agricultural and industrial operations for hire, commonly referred to as specialty air services (SAS).  For Mexican and Canadian SAS operators, please consult our NAFTA handbook and Order 97-7-3 to determine if the proposed SAS operations may already be authorized subject to the conditions imposed in Order 97-7-3, to include compliance with FAA rules. For SAS operations proposed by foreign civil aircraft operators of other countries, or those of operators from Mexico and Canada that involve operations that may not already be permitted under NAFTA, applications to conduct these operations under Part 375 can be submitted using OST Form 4509 or in narrative format.

On occasion, foreign civil air operators may propose to conduct operations for hire that do not fit specifically in a category provided for in Part 375.  In such cases, operators may file a narrative application under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 375.70.

Filing fees may be required, see filing fee section above.  All types of Part 375 applications should be submitted by e-mail to:


Part 375 also covers certain operations that can be conducted without DOT approval (Subpart D) provided that they are conducted in compliance with the provisions outlined and meet the requirements of all other applicable U.S. government agencies.  Part 375 also includes notice requirements for foreign civil air operators and foreign air carriers conducting scheduled international services that transit the United States (Subpart F).  
 

Updated: Thursday, August 21, 2014