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Air carrier operations

Operating authorisation

What procedural and documentary requirements must air carriers meet in order to operate in your jurisdiction?

In France, public air carriage is governed by Articles L.6412-12 and thereafter of the Transport Code.

Air carriage companies must hold an operating licence and an air operator certificate issued by the Civil Aviation Authority in accordance with the terms of EU Regulation 1008/2008 on common rules for the operation of air services.

An ‘air operator licence’ was first defined by the EU Licensing of Air Carriers Regulation (2407/92) as “any document issued by a competent member state to a company authorising it, for a fee, to carry passengers, mail or freight by air in accordance with the details on the licence”. EU Regulation 1008/2008, which replaced the EU Licensing of Air Carriers Regulation (2407/92), defines an ‘air operator licence’ as “an authorisation granted by the competent licensing authority to an undertaking, permitting it to provide air services as stated in the operating licence” and sets out nine new requirements for obtaining a licence.

The minister for transport, under advice from the Higher Council of Civil Aviation, is responsible for decisions regarding the granting of public air transport licences.

Article 6 of EU Regulation 1008/2008 defines an ‘air operator certificate’ as:

a certificate delivered to an undertaking confirming that the operator has the professional ability and organisation to ensure the safety of operations specified in the certificate, as provided in the relevant provisions of Community or national law, as applicable.”

In France, the minister for civil aviation is responsible for issuing air operator certificates.

Further, air carriage is an activity which is subject to administrative authorisation: operating programmes are subject to prior consent or approval by the applicable administrative authority.

Ownership and control

Do any nationality or other requirements or restrictions apply to ownership or control of air carriers operating in your jurisdiction?

Only a company whose main occupation is to provide air services and whose head office is in France can be granted an operating licence (Article R.330-2 of the Civil Aviation Code)

The company must be owned – and continue to be owned directly or by way of a majority shareholder – by an EU or European Economic Area member or resident or parties to any other agreements regarding air transport. Traded companies must be able to demonstrate that they are effectively under the control of an EU member state or EU national.

Further, air carriers that hold an operating licence issued in France cannot exercise additional public air transport activity in France without a ministerial waiver.

Insurance coverage

What is the required level of insurance coverage for air carrier operations?

Insurance obligations are defined in Article 50 of the Montreal Convention and detailed in EU Regulation 785/2004 on insurance requirements for air carriers and operators as follows:

  • For liability regarding passengers, the minimum insurance cover is set at 250,000 special drawing rights (SDR) per passenger. In certain cases, this cover may be reduced, but to no lower than 100,000 SDR.
  • For liability in respect of baggage, the minimum insurance cover is set at 1,000 SDR per passenger.
  • For liability in respect of cargo, the minimum insurance cover is set at 17 SDR per kilogramme of goods transported.
  • For liability in respect of third parties (meaning any legal and natural person, excluding passengers and crew), the minimum insurance cover required per accident and aircraft is based on the category of aircraft (ie, a variable minimum insurance between 750,000 SDR and 7 million SDR).

Safety requirements

What safety requirements apply to air carrier operations, including with regard to professional and technical certifications?

Air carriers are subject to mandatory technical inspections to be carried out by the relevant administrative authority, which could lead to restrictive operating measures (eg, the grounding of an aircraft in the case of the risk to goods or persons under Article L.6411-1 of the Transport Code).

Airlines are subject to certification by high ranking inter-regional Directorate of Civil Aviation Safety officials, who are responsible for granting, renewing and withdrawing airline certificates.

Further, public airlines are monitored through technical inspections of their aircraft while on the ground under EU Regulation 965/2012, AIR OPS. 

Environmental obligations

What environmental obligations apply to air carrier operations?

The Authority for Airport Noise Control (ACNUSA) penalises airline operators when appropriate by imposing:

  • temporary or permanent restrictions on the use of certain types of aircraft due to their:
    • emissions polluting the atmosphere;
    • acoustic classification;
    • passenger capacity; or
    • certified gross weight on take off;
  • temporary or permanent restrictions on certain activities due to the environmental damage that they cause;
  • special take-off and landing procedures to reduce the environmental impact of these operations;
  • rules relating to engine testing; and
  • mandatory maximum noise or emission levels.

Air traffic control

How are air traffic control services regulated in your jurisdiction?

In France, the Directorate of Air Navigation Services is responsible for air traffic control. It provides services to airspace users which are financed by a service charge system (eg, road, air terminal, en route and oceanic charges) and taxes (mainly civil aviation tax).

There are several types of air traffic control:

  • the Centre for En Route Air Navigation is responsible for air traffic control for aircraft in cruise mode;
  • the Centre for Approach Control is responsible for air traffic control in the immediate vicinity of airports; and
  • control towers provide air traffic control services for air traffic on the ground.

Routes

Do any licensing requirements apply to specific routes?

Any aircraft can fly freely over French territory. However, foreign-owned aircraft must have be authorised by a diplomatic convention or specific authorisation. Once this authorisation has been granted, aircraft making an international flight must follow the route provided (Articles L.6211-1 and L.6211-2 of the Transport Code).

However, flying over certain parts of French territory may be forbidden or limited for military or public safety reasons (eg, industrial sites and military and nuclear installations).

Are any public service obligations in place with respect to remote destinations?

The civil aviation minister can impose public service obligations regarding regular air services following a proposal from his or her country’s overseas territories or other interested parties.

If a route has not been granted an operating licence by France, another EU member state or a party to the European Economic Area agreement or any other agreement relating to air transport, the civil aviation minister can conduct a tender process and limit access to such a route to a sole airline for a maximum of three years, which is renewable.

In France, the obligation to provide public services may lead to a requirement to provide air carriage services to France’s overseas territories, considering the specific limits of links between mainland France and such territories.

Charter services

Do any special provisions apply to charter services?

No.  

Taxes

What taxes apply to the provision of air carrier services?

In France, the Directorate of Air Navigation Services is responsible for air traffic control. It provides services to airspace users which are financed by a service charge system (eg, road, air terminal, en route and oceanic charges) and taxes (mainly civil aviation tax).

There are several types of air traffic control:

  • the Centre for En Route Air Navigation is responsible for air traffic control for aircraft in cruise mode;
  • the Centre for Approach Control is responsible for air traffic control in the immediate vicinity of airports; and
  • control towers provide air traffic control services for air traffic on the ground.

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