All questions

Licensing of operations

i Licensed activities

Within the EU, international and domestic air services are governed by Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008, which provides market access to all carriers who have obtained an operating licence, as well as an air operator's certificate.

This principle was also adopted by the Italian legislature in 2005 and 2006 as it modified the rules of the INC, stipulating services that are allowed to be performed by air carriers. These include air transport services to passengers and carrying of mail and cargo on scheduled and non-scheduled flights on intra-Community routes by carriers who have obtained an operating licence, and previously a certificate (AOC), according to the provisions laid down in the INC and in EU legislation.

ENAC is the body responsible for issuing the AOC. The certificate affirms that the operator has the professional ability and organisation necessary to ensure the exercise of its aircraft in a safe condition for the aviation activities specified therein (Article 777 of the INC). ENAC establishes, through its own internal rules, the content, limitations and procedures for the issuance, renewal, and changes, if any, to the AOC. The Regulation governing ENAC's issuance of a national AOC for air transport undertakings is also applicable to air carriers that have helicopter operations.

ENAC grants air carrier licences to undertakings established in Italy, according to Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008. The conditions for issuance, formalities and validity of the licence are subject to the possession of a valid AOC specifying the activities covered by this licence.

To issue the licence, ENAC requires the operator to submit evidence of the administrative, financial and insurance requirements referred to in Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008 and Regulation (EC) No. 785/2004, proof of availability of one or more aircraft, or on the basis of a property deed, or under a contract for the use of the aircraft previously approved by ENAC according to their own regulations.

Supervision of the activities of the air carrier and verification of its ability to meet the requirements on an ongoing basis comes under the authority of ENAC and is a condition for the issuance of the operating licence. A year after its issuance, and every two years thereafter, ENAC has to verify that the requirements for the issuance of licences are being met on an ongoing basis.

ENAC may, at any time, suspend the licence if the carrier is unable to ensure compliance with the licensing requirements, and has the authority to revoke it if it appears that the carrier is no longer able to meet its commitments.

Furthermore, on 17 November 2017 ENAC issued a Regulation regarding fire-fighting air operations in Italy. This Regulation sets out the rules applicable to the release, maintenance, limitations and revocation of the firefighting air operator certificate (COAN). The COAN is mandatory to perform this type of flight operation, which ENAC defines as: 'air operation devoted to fire-fighting, including flights for observation and finding of fires, spread of extinguishing and retardant products, transport of specialised personnel and flight training'.

In order to obtain the COAN, the applicant must comply with several requirements regarding the place of business, citizenship and professional ethics of the legal representative and the board members, nationality of the operator, operator's financial means, registration of the aircraft, aircraft's property, airworthiness certificate and insurance coverage.

In 2018, ENAC approved several national air carrier service charters, which is an informative tool about the current quality level of the air carrier service and about the improvements to be implemented for the following year. In particular, air carrier service charters for Air Dolomiti, Air Italy, Blue Panorama and Neos have been approved.

Finally, regarding drones, the above-mentioned Regulation (EC) No. 1139/2018 lays down new requirements to ensure their free circulation in the European Common Aviation Area.

ii Ownership rules

ENAC issues the air carrier's licence according to Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008 (Article 778 of the INC) and its interpretative guidelines (2017/C 191/01) dated 16 June 2017. The licence is granted to undertakings established in Italy whose effective control, through a shareholding majority, is owned directly or through majority ownership by a Member State or nationals of EU Member States and whose main activity is air transport in isolation or in combination with any other commercial operations of aircraft or the repair or maintenance of aircraft. Moreover, air carriers must own a valid certificate of airworthiness issued by ENAC and one or more aircraft being its property or leased (dry lease) as provided by Article 2.2 of the Circular No. EAL-16 on 27 February 2008. Air carriers must provide satisfactory evidence of administrative, financial and insurance requirements, as provided by Regulation No. 1008/2008.

Among the recent licences released, in October 2016, ENAC issued to Blue Panorama Airlines the Air Transport Licence and AOC, and most recently, on 11 April 2017, to Ernest Airlines the AOC (IT.AOC.175) and the Operating Licence I-L 518.

iii Foreign carriers

Access to European routes is guaranteed to all air carriers (Italian and European) with the AOC and the operating licence granted by ENAC (Article 776 of the INC).

The services of scheduled air transport of passengers, mail or cargo that are conducted, in whole or in part, outside the European Union are governed by bilateral agreements.

Article 784 of the INC, regarding non-EU scheduled air transport services, states that it is an essential condition that the civil aviation authorities of the country parties have a regulatory system for certification and surveillance for air transport services; this is required to ensure a level of safety as provided by the Chicago Convention standards. The air transport services are performed for the Italian part by one or more designated air carriers, established on national territory, with a valid operating licence granted by ENAC or by a Member State of the European Union, provided with financial and technical capacity and insurance sufficient to ensure the smooth running of air services in conditions of safety and to safeguard their right to mobility of citizens (Article 784 of the INC).

In December 2014 ENAC issued circular EAL-14A, which implements the INC in relation to the operation of extra-EU scheduled services by regulating the authorisation and designation procedure for both Italian and Italian-based EU carriers in accordance with international air transport agreements. It aims to improve the regulatory framework and assist the industry by broadening business opportunities. Once an EU airline has been recognised by ENAC as an established carrier, it must comply with all national laws and regulations applicable to its specific business in Italy (including any relevant fiscal and employment laws). ENAC has also outlined the criteria in selecting carriers applying for traffic rights to and from extra-EU airports.

ENAC is the only authority that can prepare an agreement that regulates relations with the chosen air carriers. Designated carriers cannot give the service hired to other air carriers without the prior written consent of ENAC, under penalty of exclusion from the hired service (Article 785 of the INC).

Italy allows air carriers holding a licence and the carriers of the state with which there is the air transport service the exercise of non-EU non-scheduled services on condition of reciprocity.

ENAC requires non-EU carriers technical requirements and administrative provisions, including those relating to the prevention of attacks against civil aviation (Article 787 of the INC). ENAC is responsible for regulating the carrying out the services of non-scheduled air transport.

In the event that the carrier does not meet requirements, ENAC may prohibit a non-EU carrier from entering Italian airspace.

The Annual Report and Social Balance 2018, published by ENAC in May 2019, shows that, in Italy, a growth of the non-EU air carriers' traffic has been recorded together with an increase of accreditations and authorisation, which went from 1,220 in 2017 to 1,800 in 2018.

Traffic of the non-EU air carriers in Italy could also increase in 2019 after that, on 20 May 2019, China and European Union have signed an agreement on civil aviation safety (BASA) and a horizontal aviation agreement to strengthen their aviation cooperation. Prior of this latter agreement, only airlines owned and controlled by a specific Member State or its nationals could fly between that Member State and China, while the new horizontal aviation agreement will allow to all EU airlines to fly to China from any EU Member State, through a bilateral air services agreement with China under which unused traffic rights are available.

In addition, the proposed amendment to the agreement between the EU and United States and the agreement proposal between the EU and Japan were examined in 2018. The negotiations on the Japan–EU bilateral aviation agreement are still ongoing: the last meeting between the parties was held in Tokyo on 3 and 4 April 2019. Negotiations between the EU and the United States are also in progress.

iv The national airport plan

The Ministry of Transport published a national airport plan, which is currently under further revision. It aims to design a balanced development of Italian airports, offering a new governance system, identifying structural priorities and optimising the global transport offer. The plan in question also intends to prevent competition conflicts between airports located in the same region, favouring the creation of an airports system with a single governing body. The Italian airport plan has been drafted according to the EU principles included in the EU Commission Communication on the draft EU Guidelines on state aid to airports and airlines; these state that: 'except in duly justified and limited cases, airports should be able to cover their operating costs and public investment should be used to finance the construction of viable airports; distortions of competition between airports and between airlines, as well as duplication of non-viable airports should be avoided. This balanced approach should be transparent, easily understood and straightforward to apply.' The plan identifies 10 traffic zones; each zone has one strategic airport with the sole exception of the centre–north zone, where Bologna and Pisa–Florence operate, provided that Pisa and Florence airports become totally integrated. The 10 strategic airports are: Milan Malpensa (north-west), Venice (north east), Bologna and Pisa–Florence (centre–north), Rome Fiumicino (centre), Naples (Campania), Bari (Mediterranean–Adriatic), Lamezia (Calabria), Catania (east Sicily), Palermo (west Sicily) and Cagliari (Sardinia). Other airports of national interest can be identified, provided that they can actually play an effective role in one zone and can achieve at least a break-even point in their annual accounts. The plan also envisages the strengthening of airport infrastructure, the development of intermodality, the creation of a cargo network and facilitation for general aviation.