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Recent development and trends

Recent Developments

Are there any notable recent developments or trends in the aviation sector in your jurisdiction?

Recent developments in the UAE aviation sector include the following:

  • The Qatari ban – in light of the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) implemented Security Council Resolution 2309 (the Qatar Resolution), which places a ban on all air transport to and from Qatar. As a result, all Qatari-registered aircraft and air carriers are prohibited from transiting through UAE airspace or landing at UAE airports. The GCAA has implemented additional security measures concerning private and chartered aircraft that are not registered in Qatar and intend to transit between Qatar via UAE airspace. Such private and chartered aircraft must submit a formal request for transit rights to the GCAA no less than 24 hours before the journey and provide details of the passengers, crew members and cargo.
  • The value added tax (VAT) exemption – the introduction of VAT in the United Arab Emirates from January 2018 will not affect the aviation industry. Under Article 45 of Federal Decree-Law 8/2017 concerning VAT, a zero-rate exemption will be applied to:
  • aircraft;
  • airfares;
  • goods transported by air;
  • goods and services sold on aircraft; and
  • goods and services used in the maintenance and supply of air transport.
  • The Movable Assets Lawunder UAE law, there is no register for security interests in aircraft. While security interests may be filed with the GCAA (at its discretion), this is not mandated by UAE law and, accordingly, such security interests are not readily available to the public. However, the introduction of Federal Law 20/2016 concerning the Mortgage of Movable Assets to Secure a Debt) may alter this position. As aircraft, aircraft parts and engines do not fall under the exclusions set out in Article 4 of Federal Law 20/2016, an aircraft-specific security interests register may be established in the future. This in turn would allow for the full registration of security interests over such movable assets (eg, those of lessors) and provide priority in order of registration over creditors in the event that recovery of the secured party’s interests is required.  

Regulatory framework

Domestic Law

What is the primary domestic legislation governing the aviation industry in your jurisdiction?

The UAE aviation industry’s primary legislative framework comprises:

  • Federal Law 20/1991 issuing the Civil Aviation Act (the Civil Aviation Law);
  • Federal Law 4/1996 regarding the General Authority for Civil Aviation (the Aviation Authority Law);
  • Federal Law 8/1993 issuing the Commercial Transaction Law (the Commercial Transactions Law);
  • Federal Law 20/2001 amending the Aviation Authority Law; and
  • Federal Law 19/2010 concerning the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

These federal laws are supplemented by the Civil Aviation Regulations, which regulate the domestic aviation industry with regard to:

  • licensing;
  • general matters;
  • operations;
  • airworthiness;
  • aviation safety;
  • aviation security;
  • air navigation;
  • aerodromes;
  • safety management systems; and
  • aerodrome emergency services, facilities and equipment.

The Civil Aviation Advisory Publications (CAAPs) provide useful guidance and information for stakeholders that wish to comply with the Civil Aviation Regulations. While not a legal instrument, circumvention of the CAAPs is likely to result in a breach of the Civil Aviation Regulations.

The United Arab Emirates has ratified a number of international aviation treaties, the most important of which are:

  • the Convention on International Civil Aviation 1944 (the Chicago Convention), which established the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the rules for aircraft and airspace safety and registration. The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) – the federal regulatory body with exclusive and autonomous authority over the UAE aviation industry – enforces the Chicago Convention domestically with regard to aircraft and airspace safety via Parts VI and VII of the Civil Aviation Regulations;
  • the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (the New York Convention), which requires the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards by all countries that have ratified it. The United Arab Emirates  transposed the New York Convention into domestic law through Federal Decree 43/2006 (Regarding the UAE Joining the Convention of New York on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards);
  • the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air 1999 (the Montreal Convention), which standardised regulations concerning the international carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo. The Montreal Convention was transposed into UAE law through Federal Decree 13/2000 concerning attesting the Montreal Convention of 1999 and concerning unifying some Rules Related to the International Aviation Transport); and     
  • the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and its Protocol on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment 2001 (the Cape Town Convention), which standardised the registration of leases, security interests, contracts of sale and other transactional or financing agreements specific to aircraft and aircraft engines. The registration and deregistration of aircraft and engine parts in the United Arab Emirates are covered by Part V of the Civil Aviation Regulations.

International Law

What international aviation agreements has your jurisdiction concluded?

The United Arab Emirates has signed more than 120 international air transport agreements since 2012, making it one of the most interconnected countries in the world as far as air transport is concerned. An air transport agreement is a bilateral or multilateral aviation agreement made between two countries to promote and control the air transport of passengers and cargo between them. Due to the United Arab Emirates’ liberal aviation policy, the majority of its aviation agreements are open skies air transport agreements. While each agreement is case specific, the intention is to encourage free market competition between the contracting parties and promote market-driven prices of air transport services.

The United Arab Emirates’ international aviation agreements include:

  • the Canada Air Transport Agreement 1999;
  • the USA Air Transport Agreement 2002;
  • the Moldova Aviation Agreement 2003;
  • the Senegal Air Transport Memorandum of Understanding 2004;
  • the Brazil Air Traffic Agreement 2004;
  • the Singapore Open Skies Air Services Agreement 2004;
  • the Brunei Open Sky Air Services Agreement 2005;
  • the Indonesia Cooperation Agreement 2006;
  • the EU Bilateral Agreement 2007;
  • the EU Horizontal Air Transport Agreement 2007;
  • the Georgia Open Skies Agreement 2007;
  • the Nigeria Air Transportation Memorandum of Understanding 2008;
  • the Jordan Air Services Memorandum of Understanding 2008;
  • the Libya Air Transport Deal 2008;
  • the Eritrea Open Skies Agreement 2008;
  • the India Flight Services Memorandum of Understanding 2008;
  • the Serbia Open Skies Agreement 2009;
  • the Dominican Republic Open Skies Agreement 2009;
  • the Zambia Open Sky Air Services Agreement 2009;
  • the Estonia Open Sky Air Services Agreement 2009;
  • the Turkmenistan Open Sky Air Services Agreement 2009;
  • the Colombia Air Services Agreement 2009;
  • the Hungary Air Services Agreement 2009;
  • the Cambodia Air Services Agreement 2010;
  • the Bosnia and Herzegovina Air Services Agreement 2010;
  • the Slovakia Open Sky Air Services Agreement 2010;
  • the Yemen Open Skies Agreement 2010;
  • the Ireland Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Cote D’Ivoire Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Luxembourg Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the United Kingdom Aviation Security Memorandum of Understanding 2011;
  • the Swaziland Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Jamaica Open Skies Agreement 2011;
  • the Ukraine Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Panama Open Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Costa Rica Open Skies Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Mali Open Sky Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Uruguay Open Skies Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Vietnam Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Croatia Open Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Ecuador Open Skies Air Services Agreement 2011;
  • the Mauritania Air Services Deal 2011;
  • the Cyprus Air Services Agreement 2012;
  • the El Salvador Air Services Agreement 2012;
  • the Philippines Air Services Confidential Memorandum of Understanding 2012;
  • the Niger Open Skies Agreement 2013;
  • the Finland Open Skies Agreement 2013;
  • the Cuba Open Skies Agreement 2014;
  • the Sierra Leone Open Skies Agreement 2014;
  • the Latvia Air Services Agreement 2014;
  • the Burkina Faso Open Skies Agreement 2015;
  • the Sudan Open Space Agreement 2015;
  • the Slovakia Open Skies Agreement 2015;
  • the Australia Air Services Agreement 2015;
  • the Gabon Open Skies Agreement 2015;
  • the Guyana Air Services Agreement 2015;
  • the Kuwait Open Skies Agreement 2015;
  • the Sweden Open Skies Agreement 2016;
  • the Macedonia Open Skies Agreement 2016;
  • the Congo Air Transport Services Agreement 2016;
  • the Bulgaria Air Services Agreement 2016;
  • the Belize Open Skies Agreement 2017; and
  • the Bahrain Air Services Agreement 2017.

Regulatory Authorities

Which governing bodies regulate the aviation industry and what is the extent of their powers?

Article 4 of the Aviation Authority Law established the GCAA. Under the governance of the minister of development for the government sector, the GCAA’s mandate is to ensure that all aviation industry stakeholders adhere to and comply with the Civil Aviation Law.

The United Arab Emirates is also a member of the ICAO, which is a specialised UN agency tasked under the Chicago Convention with the promulgation of civil aviation standards and recommended practices (SARPs) to support a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector. ICAO member states leverage the SARPs and other policies in order to:

  • attain conformity with global civil aviation operations, regulations and norms;
  • support aviation development objectives; and
  • promote civil aviation safety and reliability. 

 

Air carrier operations

Operating Authorisation

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

There are two types of air carrier under the Civil Aviation Law and Part IV of the Civil Aviation Regulations:

  • private air carriers (eg, persons, organisations or enterprises) engaged in the carriage of persons or cargo not for hire or reward; and
  • commercial air carriers engaged in the transportation of passengers, cargo and mail for remuneration or hire and offering a service to the public on demand and not to a published schedule.

Accordingly, under Article 6(2) of the Civil Aviation Law and Article 8 of the Civil Aviation Advisory Publications (CAAPs):

  • all UAE-based commercial air carriers must obtain an air operator’s certificate (AOC); and
  • UAE-based private air carriers must obtain a private operator certificate (POC).

Both types of carrier must also obtain operations specifications from the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). The requirements for an AOC are the same as those for a POC. The AOC and POC application process is conducted electronically and most transactions are processed via the GCAA’s e-services portal.

The initial issuance of an AOC takes place in five distinct phases:

  • pre-application;
  • formal application;
  • document evaluation;
  • operational demonstration and inspection; and
  • certification.

Existing air carriers that wish to transfer their AOC to a different type of aircraft or operation should follow the above procedure. The certification phase is also applicable for AOC renewal. Applications for issuance, renewal or amendment are processed via the GCAA’s e-services portal.

Air carriers must meet with the relevant GCAA personnel for each of the above phases and may be required to submit documentation for each application.

The following documents must be submitted via the e-services portal during the pre-application phase:

  • a letter of intent containing information regarding:
    • the type of operation;
    • the type of aircraft;
    • the areas of operation;
    • the applicant’s management organisation structure;
    • the names of all post holders and their qualifications; and
    • other details, including a statement certifying that the owner, accountable manager and other post holders have no record of arrests or convictions and are free from liens, civil suits, civil judgments and bankruptcy);
  • the completed application form (GTF-AOC-001);
  • the aircraft ownership details, if available (ie, a lease or sale and purchase agreement);
  • a description and chart of the applicant’s organisational structure (this can be included in the letter of intent);
  • the operator’s valid trade licence, as issued by the Department of Economic Development of the relevant emirate (licences issued by a UAE free trade zone will not be acceptable);
  • proof of a deposit of:
    • Dh200,000 (approximately $54,500) into the GCAA’s account if the applicant intends to operate an aircraft with a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of 5,700 kilograms or under; or
    • Dh500,000 (approximately $136,160) where at least one of the aircraft has an MTOM of 5,700 kilograms or above.

The final AOC fee will be deducted from the initial deposit paid to the GCAA;

  • financial information, including details of economic viability and a financial fitness assessment (for AOC applicants engaged in commercial air carrier operations only);
  • insurance certificates and policies relevant to the applicant and aircraft concerned;
  • GCAA and Department of Transport approval in the form of a recommendation letter authorising the applicant to operate at the relevant airport;
  • a copy of the applicant’s passport;
  • a photo of the applicant;
  • a schedule of events (the process for obtaining an AOC is divided into five phases. The significant milestones and steps for each phase must be identified and this should be done by the applicant’s technical team in accordance with Article 8 of the CAAP);
  • details of the mass and balance system if different to that set out in the Civil Aviation Regulations requirements, as the rules authorise applicants to provide alternative means of compliance;
  • the relevant contracts or equivalent memoranda of understanding, flight plans, training manuals and other similar documents; and
  • a decree issued by the relevant UAE emirate if the AOC application involves a designated air carrier intending to conduct scheduled operations within that specific emirate.

Ownership and Control

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

The air carrier must:

  • be a UAE corporate body;
  • be duly licensed by the relevant Department of Economic Development; and
  • have at least 51% of its shares held by a UAE national.

Insurance Coverage

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

Article 50 of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air 1999 requires that air carriers are adequately insured to cover liability. In addition, Article 7(6) of the Civil Aviation Law (establishing the UAE Civil Aviation Law) requires air carriers to be insured to cover liability in case of accidents – particularly in respect of passengers, baggage, cargo, mail and third parties – albeit without specifying minimum insurance amounts and conditions. GCAA Safety Decision 14-2016 regarding Minimum Insurance Requirements for Aircraft Operators sets out the minimum insurance requirements for air carriers.

Principles of insurance

There are certain mandatory requirements for insurance purposes. Broadly speaking, air carriers flying in and out of the United Arab Emirates must be insured (ie, they must have valid insurance certificates) and comply with new minimum insurance criteria as prescribed under the safety decision. Insurance certificates must also include a compliance declaration with the minimum insurance values prescribed under the safety decision. Further, insurance certificates must remain on board the aircraft. 

Financial Requirements

What financial thresholds must air carriers meet to obtain operating authorization?

Under Article 8 of the CAAP, the GCAA requires financial information, economic viability and a financial fitness assessment (for AOC applicants). The following documents are required as and when applicable:

  • audited financial statements;
  • the applicant’s profit and loss statement and balance sheet;
  • an approved budget copy with a profit and loss statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement for the relevant year;
  • a list of banks with which the applicant has relationships and the types of facility and credit limits made available to the applicant; and
  • any other pertinent financial information, such as proposed arrangements for the purchase or lease of the aircraft and major equipment.

Safety Requirements

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

The GCAA sets and strictly monitors safety requirements. A valid certificate of airworthiness and other licensing procedures for flight crew and personnel are vital for air carriers to be permitted to operate.

What environmental obligations apply to air carrier operations?

While Federal Decree 238/2016 ratifying the Paris Agreement on Climate Change made no explicit reference to international aviation emissions, it established an ambitious and legally binding long-term global target in this regard. This target requires all parties to the agreement to pursue a temperature increase limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is more ambitious than the European Union’s target of 2 degrees Celsius.

In 2012 the United Arab Emirates adopted a comprehensive policy on aviation and climate change. This policy reaffirms the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO’s) role of reducing the impact of emissions from international civil aviation. It is imperative that, in any post-Kyoto global framework, the ICAO continues providing leadership and coordination.

Article 48(4) of Federal Law 24/1999 concerning the Protection and Development of the Environment states that establishments must ensure that air pollutants do not exceed the acceptable and permissible limits specified in Cabinet Resolution 37/2001 concerning the Executive Regulations of Federal Law 24/1999).

Air Travel Control

How are air traffic control services regulated in your jurisdiction?

The Civil Aviation Law regulates the United Arab Emirates’ air traffic control services. It defines an ‘air traffic control unit’ as an area control centre, approach control unit or aerodrome control tower.

Routes

Do any licensing requirements apply to specific routes?

Applications for specific routes are made directly to the GCAA, which has the discretion to request additional documents or information relating to specific routes.

However, the United Arab Emirates has issued specific orders with the aim of boycotting certain countries and restricting any form of communication therewith.

Qatar

On the grounds of the Qatar Resolution, the GCAA has banned all air transport to and from Qatar. This ban does not extend to private companies and chartered flights, which can continue to use the UAE’s airports or transit through its airspace to and from Qatar. Private companies and other air carriers must:

  • submit their requests to the GCAA at least 24 hours in advance; and
  • provide a list of the names and nationalities of the crew, passengers and cargo carried by the aircraft.

Israel

Federal Law 15/1972 (the Israeli Boycott Law) makes it illegal to deal with companies and individuals that are domiciled in Israel, hold Israeli citizenship or are employed to serve Israel’s objectives or interests. Clause 5 of Israeli Aviation Cabinet Resolution 462/17M/1995 concerning the Boycott of Israel states that its aim is “prohibiting Israeli overflight in Arab airspace and banning foreign air carriers from flying in Arab airspace if such air carriers are coming directly from Israeli airports”.

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

Not applicable.

Charter Services

Do any special provisions apply to charter services?

Not applicable.

Taxes

What taxes apply to the provision of air carrier services?

Not applicable.  

Consumer protection and liability

Airfares

Are airfares regulated in your jurisdiction?

Airfares are not regulated in the United Arab Emirates.

Passenger Protection

What rules and liabilities are air carriers subject to in respect of:

(a) Flight delays and cancellations?

There are no specific liabilities in the United Arab Emirates that apply to flight delays and cancellations. Each carrier is expected to have an internal set of procedures in place.

(b) Oversold flights?

There are no specific liabilities in the United Arab Emirates that apply to oversold flights. Each carrier is expected to have an internal set of procedures in place.

(c) Denied boarding?

There are no specific liabilities in the United Arab Emirates that apply to passengers who are denied boarding. Each carrier is expected to have an internal set of procedures in place.

(d) Access for disabled passengers?

There are no specific liabilities in the United Arab Emirates that apply to access for disabled passengers. Each carrier is expected to have its own internal rules and regulations concerning passengers with disabilities in place (eg, Emirates has specific guidelines for disabled passengers).

(e) Lost, damaged or destroyed luggage.

There are no specific liabilities in the United Arab Emirates that apply to lost, damaged or destroyed luggage. Article 17(2) of Federal Decree 13/2000 concerning the Convention for Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air 1999 states that:

The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of destruction or loss of, or of damage to, checked baggage upon condition only that the event which caused the destruction, loss or damage took place on board the aircraft or during any period within which the checked baggage was in the charge of the carrier.”

(f) Retention and protection of passenger data?

There are no specific liabilities in the United Arab Emirates that apply to the retention and protection of passenger data. Nonetheless, the importance of protecting individual privacy is highlighted in various federal laws. Article 31 of the Constitution 1971 states that the “freedom of communication by post, telegraph and other means of communication and the confidentiality thereof are guaranteed in accordance with the law”.

Article 378(6) of Federal Law 3/1987 promulgating the Penal Code provides that a person shall be detained or fined if he or she prejudices the privacy of an individual or family (ie, if a person publishes by any means news, photos or comments concerning the private or family life of individuals, even if the information is true and correct).

Article 106(2) of Federal Law 5/1985 (the UAE Civil Transactions Law, as amended) states that a person is liable for all acts that cause harm. This includes harm caused by the unauthorised use of another party’s personal or private information.

Air carriers are expected to have their own policies and measures in place to deal with and handle sensitive data belonging to their customers. 

Cargo

What rules and liabilities apply to the air carriage of cargo?

The Civil Aviation Law sets out general provisions regarding the carriage of cargo by air. Article 13 sets out the following list of articles that must not be carried on board an aircraft without prior permission from the relevant authority and subject to such conditions as may be specified by the competent authority:

  • explosives and fireworks, except as required to operate the aircraft or give prescribed signals;
  • firearms and ammunition;
  • nuclear substances, radioactive isotopes and all related substances;
  • poisonous gases;
  • germs and hazardous materials; and
  • any other articles which are prohibited from being carried as listed by the competent authority.

Every major UAE air carrier has its own rules and regulations setting out specific information regarding the carriage of cargo and such information is generally available to the public on its official website.

Marketing and Advertising

Do any special rules apply to the marketing and advertising of aviation services?

No specific rules or restrictions apply to marketing and advertising aviation services in the United Arab Emirates.

However, the UAE National Media Council oversees the UAE media. It requires that radio and television stations respect UAE policies and cultural heritage and apply the highest professional and moral standards.  

Complaints Handling

Do any special rules apply to consumer complaints handling in the aviation industry?

No special rules apply to consumer complaints handling specifically in the aviation industry. However, Article 4(6)(4) of Federal Law 24/2006 concerning Consumer Protection provides that the UAE Ministry of Economy’s Consumer Protection Department is responsible for receiving and processing consumer complaints in the United Arab Emirates.    

Aircraft

Aircraft Register

What are the requirements for entry in the domestic aircraft register?

Part V(1) of the Civil Aviation Regulations outlines the conditions under which an aircraft may be registered with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). The GCAA does not hold a specific aircraft registry.

The following individuals and entities are eligible as qualified persons to register an aircraft with the GCAA:

  • UAE nationals;
  • corporate entities whose principal place of business is the United Arab Emirates; and
  • UAE government departments.

Aircraft, including foreign aircraft, can also be registered with the GCAA in the name of an operator, provided that the operator meets the criteria of a qualified person.

To register an aircraft with the GCAA, the following documents (as listed under Appendix 1 of Part V(1) of the Civil Aviation Regulations) must be submitted:

  • a GCAA aircraft application form completed by the aircraft’s owner;
  • a notarised original power of attorney or additional proof of authorisation in the event that the application form is executed by a representative of the owner;
  • a certified true copy of the owner’s passport and UAE residence visa (if applicable) in the event that the application form is executed by an individual owner;
  • certified true copies of the legal entity’s constitutional documents in the event that the owner is a legal entity;
  • a certified true copy of the aircraft’s valid insurance policy;
  • a copy of the aircraft’s non-registration or deregistration certificate issued by the civil aviation authority with which the aircraft was previously registered;
  • a certified true copy of the contract or other legal document evidencing the aircraft’s transfer of title;
  • certified copies of the power of attorney and identification for individuals or representatives that executed the aforementioned transfer of title;
  • a certified true copy of a no-objection letter or consent letter from the aircraft lien holders; and
  • a certificate of airworthiness issued by the GCAA.

An application to register an aircraft may be submitted online via the GCAA’s website, but any original documents required must be submitted to the GCAA in person.

The initial aircraft registration fee is dependent on the take-off weight of the aircraft to be registered and must be paid to the GCAA.

Mortgages and Encumbrances

Is there a domestic register for aircraft mortgages, encumbrances and other interests? If so, what are the requirements and legal effects of registration?

The GCAA has no domestic register for the registration of securities. If a security interest (eg, mortgage or lease) is granted over a registered aircraft, the GCAA will register the details of the security interest. An application to register the security interest must be submitted to the GCAA, along with the executed documents and any other supporting documents requested by the GCAA, including a valid power of attorney.

No registration fees apply to the registration of a security interest except for international registry fees for the allocation of the authorising entry point code.

Upon filing the aforementioned documents, the aircraft will be registered in the GCAA’s aircraft register in the name of the parties concerned. Further, the certificate of registration will be issued in accordance with UAE law and no other filing, registration, submission or government approval is necessary, desirable or possible in this regard.

Under the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and its Protocol on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment 2001 (the Cape Town Convention), the aircraft, engines and each international interest constituted by the bill of sale, mortgage or security assignment are registered in the international registry in accordance with applicable UAE law and practice. The United Arab Emirates recognises and enforces such international interests as a matter of UAE law. No other filing, registration, submission or government approval is necessary, desirable or possible to establish or protect the aircraft owner’s rights and those of the security trustee in respect of the aircraft. Such interests will be effective against third parties in the United Arab Emirates and the security trustee will be entitled to the priorities, protections and indemnities set out in the Cape Town Convention.

Excluding the information reflected on the certificate of registration, the information recorded by the GCAA is not available to third parties other than those concerned.

Detention

What rules and procedures govern the detention of aircraft?

In the event of unpaid debts, the UAE courts may order the repossession of an aircraft. However, aircraft repossession in the United Arab Emirates is uncommon and largely untested.

What rules and procedures govern aircraft safety and maintenance?

The GCAA is responsible for regulating the safety and airworthiness of private and commercial aircraft. The GCAA’s safety and maintenance requirements are listed in Parts IV and V of the Civil Aviation Regulations.

All aircraft carriers operating in the United Arab Emirates must obtain an air operator’s certificate (AOC) from the GCAA.

Non-UAE carriers may obtain an exemption from the GCAA for up to one year. The relevant operator will have its AOC revoked at the end of the exemption period.

Drones

What is the state of regulation on unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in your jurisdiction?

Unmanned aerial vehicles are governed by Part VIII(10) of the Civil Aviation Regulations. All unmanned aerial vehicles and their operators must be registered with the GCAA before undertaking any recreational or commercial flights.

In addition, unmanned aerial vehicles that weigh five kilograms (kgs) or less and are used for recreational purposes may be flown only in GCAA-approved flying zones. Unmanned aerial vehicles that weigh more than five kgs and are flown for recreational purposes can be flown only within GCAA-approved flying clubs.

 

Accidents

Investigation

How are air accidents investigated in your jurisdiction?

The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is responsible for investigating aviation accidents and incidents that occur within UAE territory and waters.

The GCAA will conduct such investigations itself or nominate an external body that is suitably qualified.

Investigations are conducted in accordance with the Civil Aviation Law, Part VI(3) of the Civil Aviation Regulations and Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

Liability

What liability regime governs death, injury and loss arising from air accidents?

Air carriers are liable for damages resulting from death, injury or loss sustained by passengers under Article 355 of the Commercial Transactions Law.

The United Arab Emirates has also ratified the Convention for Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air 1999 (the Montreal Convention) and is therefore subject to the protections granted to passengers thereunder.

Regulatory Notification

What are the reporting requirements for air accidents?

Under Paragraph 4(2)(1) of Part VI(3) of the Civil Aviation Regulations, the GCAA must be notified immediately of any aviation accidents.

The GCAA must notify without delay the state in which the aircraft is registered, as well as the aircraft’s operator, designer and manufacturer. Representatives of these parties may attend any subsequent investigations as observers.

The GCAA’s final report must comply with Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation. A copy of the final report must be sent to the above parties as well as any state that:

  • participated in the investigation;
  • suffered fatalities or serious injuries to its citizens; or
  • provided relevant information (eg, significant facilities or experts).

 

Airports

Ownership

What rules govern the ownership of airports (both public and private)?

Airports in the United Arab Emirates are owned and operated by the government of the respective emirate where they are located.

Operation

What is the authorization procedure for the operation of airports?

The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) regulates and licenses airports in the United Arab Emirates. Airports are operated by the Department of Civil Aviation of the relevant emirate.

What ongoing operating requirements apply (including obligations relating to safety, security and facilities maintenance)?

Each airport is operated by the Department of Civil Aviation of the relevant emirate. All airports must have safety and security policies in place that adhere to GCAA requirements.

Airport Charges

What airport charges apply and how are they regulated?

Airport charges are implemented by the Department of Civil Aviation of the relevant emirate. To date, all passengers – excluding those under the age of two as well as pilots and crew – are charged a Dh75 (approximately $20) departure fee when departing from Dubai International Airport.

Access

What regulations govern access to airports?

All aircraft entering UAE airports must comply with the Civil Aviation Law and the Civil Aviation Regulations.

Slot Allocation

What regime governs the allocation of airport slots (including slot transfer, revocation and disputes)?

The allocation of airport slots is governed by the Department of Civil Aviation of the relevant emirate. 

Ground Handling

How are ground handling services regulated?

There is no federal law governing ground handling in the United Arab Emirates. The relevant  Department of Civil Aviation is responsible for regulating ground handling in the applicable emirate (eg, dnata is the sole ground handling agent at Dubai International Airport).

Competition issues

Governing Regime

Do any sector-specific competition regulatory/legal provisions apply to the aviation industry in your jurisdiction?

No. Federal Law 4/2012, which regulates competition in the United Arab Emirates, does not apply to the aviation industry.       

Code Sharing and Joint Ventures

What (if any) competition concerns arise in relation to code sharing and air carrier joint ventures?

Not applicable.

State Aid

What rules govern state aid in the aviation industry? Do any exemptions apply?

At present, the United Arab Emirates has no rules that govern state aid in the aviation industry.

Notable Cases

Have there been any notable recent cases or rulings involving competition in the aviation industry?

Not applicable.

 

Dispute resolution:

Disputes

What aviation-related disputes typically arise in your jurisdiction and how are they usually resolved?

Aircraft repossession

While aircraft repossession (ie, where an air carrier or lessee defaults on its obligations to a lessor or aircraft owner under an aircraft finance lease) is uncommon in the United Arab Emirates, the following court proceedings will be conducted to establish rights over the aircraft and resolve the dispute:

  • the lessor or aircraft owner will file for attachment proceedings, also known as retrieval proceedings, in the relevant UAE court;
  • within eight days of filing the proceedings, the lessor or aircraft owner must submit the substantive action to the relevant UAE court; and
  • litigation will then proceed until judgment is received.

Transportation disputes

There are three types of transportation dispute:

  • consumer-to-business;
  • business-to-business; and
  • interstate.

Litigation is the most common form of dispute resolution with regard to business-to-consumer transportation disputes that take place in the jurisdiction where the dispute arose.

Business-to-business disputes can also be resolved through litigation in the relevant jurisdiction; however, arbitration is increasingly becoming a medium for resolving such disputes.

Due to their supranational nature, interstate disputes are usually determined by the dispute settlement bodies of the International Civil Aviation Organisation Council or the World Trade Organisation. However, it is now common practice for international aviation agreements to include arbitration as the dispute resolution mechanism in the event that a transportation dispute arises between the parties.