Recent developments and trends

Recent developments

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

Shared cost flights – where a private pilot shares the cost of a flight with his or her passengers – have grown recently, mainly due to online sites which put pilots and passengers in touch with a view to cost sharing.

Shared cost flights are regulated by Article 6(4)(b)(a) of EU Regulation 965/2012, which authorises, by way of derogation, the operation of “non-complex motor powered aircraft” in the form of “shared cost flights by individuals, on the condition that the true cost is shared between all of the occupants of the craft, including the pilot, and that the number of persons carrying the cost does not exceed six”, according to the conditions contained in Annex VII concerning non-commercial flights.

However, the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) sought to control shared cost flights via the Internet by way of an August 22 2016 decision, which set conditions regarding a pilot’s experience and qualifications not included in Annex VII. The DGAC justified this derogation based on Article 14 of EU Regulation 216/2008 regarding the common rules of civil aviation, which provides states with the authority to derogate the regulation in cases of emergency.

The Council of State (Conseil d’Etat, the French supreme administrative court) repealed this decision by way of a June 22 2017 decree. Without ruling on the inadmissibility plea that the claimant raised, the council of state considered that relying on Article 14 of EU Regulation 216/2008 was unjustified, as flight sharing via the Internet was no more dangerous for passengers than other services.

Regulatory framework

Domestic law

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

The primary domestic legislation governing the aeronautical industry are the Transport Code and the Civil Aviation Code.

EU regulations apply concurrently with national provisions, as they are directly applicable to domestic law pursuant to Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

However, as a general rule, domestic regulations are limited to issues that are not covered by EU regulations and aim to ensure that there is no contradiction therewith.

International law

What international aviation agreements has your jurisdiction concluded?

France has concluded the following agreements:

  • the Warsaw Convention of October 12 1929;
  • the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation of December 7 1944; and
  • the Montreal Convention of May 28 1999 for international carriage by air, which regulates the liability of air carriers regarding the death or injury of passengers, damages to baggage and cargo or delays.

EU regulations are directly applicable as domestic legislation under:

  • EU Regulation 889/2002, which makes the Montreal Convention applicable to all flights operated by EU and foreign operators; and
  • EU Regulation 261/2004 which governs compensation in the event of denial of boarding, flight cancellations or long delays of flights.

Regulatory authorities

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

The aviation industry is regulated by the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, which is responsible for transport and infrastructure. Pursuant to Decree 2017/1086 of May 24 2017, the ministry deals with civil aviation policies, promulgates civil aviation regulations and submits propositions for law to parliament.

The Directorate-General for Civil Aviation is an authority attached to the Ministry for Transport. Its functions are defined by Decree 2008/680 of July 9 2008 regarding the central organisation and administration of the Ministry for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Regional PlanningIt is thus responsible for air carriage, infrastructure and economic regulation.

The Superior Council for Civil Aviation was established by Decree 2010/248 of March 10 2010 and is a platform for discussion concerning all aspects of civil aviation. The minister seeks its advice on:

  • draft bills and regulations;
  • draft community texts;
  • draft decisions concerning air carrier operating licences; and
  • granting authorisation for operating air services.

The minister can raise any subject relating to air carriage.

The Office for Enquiries and Analysis (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses, BEA) is responsible for air accident enquiries pursuant to Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention and EU Regulation 996/2010, which makes recommendations for improvements to air carriage safety.

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.


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?



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.

Consumer protection and liability


Are airfares regulated in your jurisdiction?

Air carriers are free to establish their own fares for commercial flights. The taxes and air charges included in the price are not fixed by the airline. In France, loss making sales are not permitted, so the airline cannot charge passengers a lower price for a flight than the tax or air charges which must be paid by each passenger. 

Passenger protection

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

(a) Flight delays and cancellations?

All French airlines are subject to EU Regulation 261/2004, which governs passenger rights in the event of delayed or cancelled flights. In the case of a delay of three hours or the cancellation of a flight, Articles 5 and 7 of the regulation provide passengers with a right to:

  • accommodation or a meal, as appropriate;
  • rerouting when a flight is cancelled; and
  • fixed-sum compensation as follows:
  • €250 for flights of 1,500 kilometres (km) or less;
  • €400 for all intra-EU flights of more than 1,500 km and for all other flights of between 1,500 km and 3,500 km; and
  • €600 for all flights which are not covered by the first two bullet points.

These payments are not due if the airline can demonstrate that the delay or cancellation happened for a reason beyond its control. They can also be reduced in certain circumstances.

(b) Oversold flights?

Where a flight is oversold, Article 4 of EU Regulation 261/2004 requires the airline to ask for volunteers to surrender their seats. These volunteers will be rerouted in exchange for benefits agreed between the airline and the passenger.

If there are insufficient volunteers, the passengers who are refused embarkation will be:

  • rerouted;
  • provided with food and accommodation; and
  • compensated under Article 7 of EU Regulation 261/2004 (see above).

(c) Denied boarding?

Where a passenger is refused boarding on a flight and this is unjustified, Article 4 of EU Regulation 261/2004 will apply (see above with reference to oversold flights).

However, denying boarding to a passenger may be justified for certain reasons (eg, health, safety, security, a lack of adequate documentation or late arrival for boarding). 

(d) Access for disabled passengers?

Access for disabled passengers is covered by EU Regulation 1107/2006. Article 3 of the regulation prohibits airlines from refusing to board disabled persons and Article 4 allows for boarding to be denied for safety reasons or if the aircraft’s size or doors render boarding impossible.

The refusal to board a disabled person with reduced mobility is a criminal offence under Article 225-1 of the Criminal Code, which can result in a fine of up to €225,000 in addition to other penalties, such as prohibition from operating. 

(e) Lost, damaged or destroyed luggage?

French airlines are bound by the Montreal Convention pursuant to EU Regulation 889/2002. Article 17-2 of the Montreal Convention is applicable with regard to late, lost or destroyed luggage.

Passengers are entitled to compensation of up to 1,131 special drawing rights, which can be increased if they make a special declaration of interest, provided that they have in no way contributed to the damage (eg, by placing forbidden articles in their baggage).

(f) Retention and protection of passenger data?

Pursuant to Law 78-17/1978 pertaining to IT, databases and civil liberties, airlines must process personal customer data in a fair, adequate and loyal manner. It is forbidden, for example, to collect data concerning the ethnic origin of passengers.

Airlines must set a fixed period for the retention of personal data and risk criminal penalties if this timeframe is not met. This fixed period must be appropriate to the purpose of data processing.

Passengers have a right to access and amend their personal data and oppose its use for commercial purposes. The National Commission for Data Protection and Civil Liberties has the power to monitor and penalise with regard to personal data processing.


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

In accordance with Article L.6422-2 of the Code of Transport, the Warsaw Convention governs domestic air freight.

With regard to international air carriage, the airline’s responsibility will be subject to the Montreal Convention if the flight is between two countries which have ratified said convention. If the departure or arrival country has not ratified the Montreal Convention, the Warsaw Convention will apply.

The airline’s responsibility is limited to 19 SDR per kilogram under the Montreal Convention and 16.583 SDR under the Warsaw Convention.

These limits are not applicable in cases where there is an inexcusable or grave error on the part of the airline.

Marketing and advertising

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

There are no specific rules regarding marketing and advertising for the airline industry. Flying clubs cannot canvass or take paid advertising for this type of activity (eg, they are forbidden from advertising their services in newspapers).

Complaints handling

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

With respect to the attribution of judicial and territorial competence, the rules of common law are applied. The statute of limitations of common law will also be applied, except for requests based on the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions, which are subject to a two-year limit.


Aircraft register

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

An aircraft is allowed to enter in the domestic aircraft register only if it meets one of the following conditions (Article L.6111-3 of the French Transportation Code):

  • The aircraft belongs to a French natural person or a national of another EU or European Economic Area member state.
  • The aircraft belongs to a legal person constituted in accordance with the legislation of an EU or European Economic Area member state and has its registered office or principal place of business there.
  • The aircraft is operated by an air carrier whose operating licence has been issued by the French administrative authority.

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?

By application of the Geneva Convention 1948 on the international recognition of aircraft rights, aircraft mortgages are registered in the French Aircraft Register (Article L.6122-8 of the Transport Code) and are valid for 10 years from the registration date. The mortgagee must produce a copy of the mortgage deed.

The mortgage – if belonging to the aircraft’s owner – covers the hull, engines, propellers, aircraft equipment and all parts intended for its continuous service. Under certain conditions, the mortgage can also cover spare parts if the location of where the spare parts are stored is made public.

In the event of the loss of or damage to an aircraft, the mortgagee creditor is subrogated in the amount of its claim, unless otherwise agreed, by the rights of the insured in respect of the indemnity due from the insurer. Before any payment is made, the insurer must request a statement of mortgage registration (Article L.6122-9 of the Transportation Code).

If there are several mortgages for the same aircraft, their rank is determined by their registration date. Except in the case of a forced sale, an aircraft may not be removed from the register if it has not been previously released from the registered mortgage.

The following claims are preferred to mortgages (in the following order) if they are registered in due course and concern an aircraft or insurance indemnity in the case of the loss of or damage to an aircraft:

  • the legal costs incurred in order to sell an aircraft and the distribution of the sale price in the common interest of creditors;
  • the remuneration due for the rescue of an aircraft; and
  • the necessary expenses incurred for an aircraft’s conservation.


What rules and procedures govern the detention of aircraft?

All aircraft may be subject to seizure on the grounds of an executive court order rendered against its owner due to outstanding debts to a creditor.

A private aircraft can be subject to a preventive seizure order with court authorisation in the case of debts owed by its owner.

An aircraft assigned to state service or commercial transport may be subject to a preventive seizure order only if the claim concerns debts due by the owner for the aircraft’s acquisition or training or maintenance contracts concerning its operation.

In the case of the failure of a formal notice to resolve such issues, the preventive seizure of an aircraft operated by or belonging to a debtor may be requested via the courts by:

  • the minister of transport – in the event of non or insufficient payment of route or air traffic service charges and the non-return of state aid;
  • the airport operator – in the event of non or insufficient payment of airport charges; and
  • the Authority for Airport Noise Control – in the event of non or insufficient payment of administrative fines that it has imposed.

The order will be communicated to the air traffic authorities for the immobilisation of the aircraft. The costs incurred by this seizure will be borne by the debtor.

In the case of the seizure of an aircraft registered with a party to the Geneva Convention 1948, no forced sale can occur if the seizing creditor’s rights cannot be fully covered by the sale price or if they are paid by the purchaser. However, if a mortgaged aircraft causes damage to third parties on French territory, the previous stipulation will not apply to the victims or their beneficiaries involved in the accident or any other aircraft owned by the same owner.

Safety and maintenance

What rules and procedures govern aircraft safety and maintenance?

The safety and maintenance of an aircraft are governed by EU Regulation 216/2008, EU Regulation 2042/2003 and a decree dated July 24 1991 regarding French general aviation.

The owner or lessee on the registration certificate is responsible for the maintenance and safety of the aircraft and must therefore guarantee its airworthiness.

Continuing airworthiness depends on:

  • compliance with airworthiness directives and any other requirements relating to airworthiness mandated by the Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC);
  • compliance with the limitations contained in the flight manual;
  • the completion of all maintenance in accordance with the accepted maintenance programme;
  • the rectification to standard of any defects or damages affecting the aircraft’s safety , considering the list of deferred works;
  • the modifications or repairs required in accordance with an approved standard; and
  • compliance with the DGAC’s operational guidelines.

With regard to large aircraft or aircraft used for commercial air transport, organisations involved in maintenance must be approved by the DGAC (a list of Part 145 workshops is available online).

With regard to general aviation, the renewal period of an airworthiness certificate and an airworthiness review certificate depends on who carries out the maintenance. If a maintenance programme is approved by the DGAC or if maintenance is operated by an agreed workshop, certificates are valid for one to three years; if the maintenance is operated by the owner without an agreed maintenance programme, certificates are valid for six months.


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

The outdoor use of drones is subject to the regulation of air activities. As a result, with some exceptions, the use of drones outside is subject to prior authorisation from the DGAC. Commercial or professional use is also subject to prior authorisation. However, the simple use of recreational drones is considered to be aeromodelling and if the drone weighs less than 25 kilogrammes (kg) authorisation is not required.

The use of a drone does not affect the rights of landowners over whose land a drone is flown  (Article L.6211-3 of the Transport Code). The use of drones over sensitive sites, such as nuclear power stations, military sites or historic monuments, is prohibited and can result in criminal liability for the drone’s pilot. Drones must be no more than 150 metres from the ground and that threshold is lowered to 50 metres in certain areas (eg, close to airports or military training areas). Pilots are also required to have direct vision of their drone. Nocturnal use of drones is forbidden and pilots must have a permanent direct view of their drone, except if it weighs less than 2 kg or, with prior authorisation, if a second person is able to see the drone.

From January 2018, all drones weighing more than 800 grams must be registered. 



How are air accidents investigated in your jurisdiction?

Pursuant to EU Regulation 966/2010 and Annex XIII of the Chicago Convention relating to international civil aviation, the state in whose territory an accident occurs must conduct an enquiry. However, it can allow a request from the state of registration, operation, design or construction of the airplane in question to participate in the enquiry. Enquiries are carried out for the state by a permanent independent national authority responsible for civil aviation safety.

The enquiry process in France comprises two parts:

  • An administrative enquiry is led by the Office of Investigation and Analysis (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses, BEA) with input from the airplane’s constructors and observers from the victims’ countries of origin. The BEA’s aim is to prevent future accidents due to similar causes. In this regard, a head of enquiry is named and is responsible for leading the enquiry until the production of a final report.
  • A judicial enquiry is conducted to identify the parties responsible for the accident and to establish their criminal liability. The enquiry is opened by a public prosecutor and complex investigations can be assigned to an investigating judge who will receive information from the police officers responsible for carrying out the investigation. At the end of the investigation, if the investigating magistrate finds that the facts constitute an offence, he or she will refer the accused to a criminal court.

The victims can participate in the investigation as civil parties and claim damages before the criminal court.


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

Section 4 of EU Regulation 889/2002, which amends EU Regulation 2027/97 by integrating the terms of the Montreal Convention, provides that an airline’s responsibility is limited in the case of the death or injury of air passengers. However, the regulation specifies that an airline cannot avail of Article 21(2) of the Montreal Convention – which limits the responsibility of carriers to 100,000 special drawing rights under certain conditions – unless it can prove that there was no negligence or other acts or omissions on its part or the part of the carrier or its employees or agents.

As regards lost or damaged baggage, Article 17 of the EU Regulation 889/2002 refers back to the Montreal Convention, which places a principal of responsibility on the airline in this matter. Thus, the carrier is responsible for checked-in baggage only if the destruction occurs while on board or when the carrier was in possession of the checked-in baggage. In the case of hand baggage, the carrier is responsible if it or one of its employees or agents is responsible for the damage.

Regulatory notification

What are the reporting requirements for air accidents?

Article 15 of EU Regulation 996/2010 details reporting requirements following air accidents. First, all persons involved in an accident enquiry are bound by professional secrecy. The aviation authorities must communicate information which it judges to be pertinent to the relevant persons with the aim of preventing future accidents.

Further, the authority responsible for the enquiry communicates the pertinent facts obtained during the safety enquiry to the European Aviation Safety Agency and the relevant national civil aviation authorities, unless instructed to the contrary.

Moreover, the aviation authority is authorised to inform victims, relatives or associates and to make public information on the facts, procedure and preliminary safety reports or conclusions in so far as the law relating to personal data permits.

Finally, before making any information public, the aviation authority must transmit said information to victims, relatives or associates, ensuring that the safety enquiry’s objectives are not jeopardised. 



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

French airports are mostly owned by state or regional authorities – with the exception of Paris’s airports, which have special status – and constitute the public aviation domain. As such, airports are protected by the General Code applicable to public property (CG3P) and must be for public use (L.2111-11, L.2111-16 and L.2121-1 of the CG3P) and use of the public domain is temporary, precarious and revocable (L.2122-2 of the CG3P).


What is the authorisation procedure for the operation of airports?

The operation of airports under state control and which are open to public air traffic are subject to a formal agreement between the state and the airport operator responsible for the airport’s planning, management and maintenance (Article L. 6321-1 and thereafter of the Transport Code).

Further, airport operators must hold an airport safety certificate for the operation of a civil airport which handles commercial traffic (Article L.6331-3 of the Transport Code). The threshold level of traffic where a certificate is deemed necessary has been set at 10,000 passengers per annum during the previous three years (the Decree of April 2 2012, setting the threshold of forecast traffic in the Transport Code).

Articles R. 211-8 and thereafter of the Civil Aviation Code provide details of how to obtain an airport safety certificate, which is granted for a maximum of five years.

All certification applications must be accompanied by an airport operating manual, which must be kept up to date by the operator and follow the template detailed in the Decree of July 10 2006. Airport operators must draw up a safety management system, as detailed in the Decree of April 19 2011 (Article R. 211-10 of the Civil Aviation Code) and ensure compliance with the legal technical norms regarding airport installations, services and equipment.

A process to convert nationally awarded airport safety certificates into EU certificates has been instigated in accordance with EU Regulation 139/2014, which establishes the requirements and administrative procedures relating to airports. 

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

The regulations applicable to aviation safety and security are covered by the Transport Code and the Civil Aviation Code with reference to the relevant EU regulations (ie, EU Regulation 300/2008 regarding the implementation of EU regulations in civil aviation security and EU Regulation 185/2010, which sets out detailed measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security).

Maintenance requirements are detailed in various technical specifications set by the decree of July 10 2006 relating to the technical specifications of certain airports used by fixed-wing aircraft. 

Airport charges

What airport charges apply and how are they regulated?

Public airport services are subject to airport fees for the services provided to aircraft operators and their service providers pursuant to Articles L.6325-1 and thereafter of the Code of Transport and R.224-1 of the Code of Civil Aviation, which cover services linked to landing, take off, parking and passenger and freight handling.

Airport charges are set according to capital invested, infrastructure investment or projected new installations and can be adjusted:

  • in the general interest;
  • for environmental reasons;
  • to create new routes; or
  • to meet other needs in terms of business continuity or development.

These charges cannot exceed the cost of the service provided.

Charges for Paris or state airports, which welcome more than 5 million passengers a year, are set within the framework of term contracts, known as economic regulation contracts with a maximum five-year term. Charges are approved by an independent oversight authority. For the remaining airports, charges are approved by the minister of transport.


What regulations govern access to airports?

Access to airports and movement therein is regulated by Article L. 6342-2 of the Transport Code.

These regulations were established pursuant to EU Regulation 300/2008 concerning the implementation of common rules in civil aviation security and EU Regulation 185/2010, which sets out detailed measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security.

Slot allocation

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

The allocation of airport time slots is covered by EU Regulation 85/1993, as amended, setting common rules for the allocation of time slots at EU airports, slot mobility and appeals. The parameters for time slot allocation are decided by the state twice a year.

For some French Airports (Paris-Orly, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Lyon Saint-Exupéry and Nice-Côte d’Azur), slots are allocated by a coordinator (COHOR), which is an independent association.

Grievances relating to time slot allocation are brought before the Airports Coordination Committee, which provides mediation between the relevant parties if no solution to the problem is found.

Ground handling

How are ground handling services regulated?

Pursuant to Article L. 6326-1 of the Transport Code, ground handling services are provided by airline companies, airport operators and approved companies in airports that process more than one million passengers.

The conditions for the operation of ground handling services are contained in Articles R.216-1 and thereafter of the Civil Aviation Code, specifically with regard to approved support and the authorisation for activities required for support operations.

Competition issues

Governing regime

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


Code sharing and joint ventures

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

Article 15 of EU Regulation 1008/2008 states that:

when operating intra-Community air services, a Community air carrier shall be permitted to combine air services and to enter into code share arrangements, without prejudice to the Community competition rules applicable to undertakings. Any restrictions on the freedom of Community air carriers to operate intra-Community air services arising from bilateral agreements between Member States are hereby superseded.”

However, restrictions may be imposed in relation to sharing agreements between an EU member state airline and third-party airlines.

Further, EU Regulation 139/2004 requires prior notification of concentrations with an EU dimension.

In the airline business, this mostly represents cooperation agreements or commercial partnerships, which the European Union is rarely opposed to.

Further, agreements between air carriers are permitted, except for prohibited agreements (Article 101 of the Treating on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)) or abuse of a dominant position (Article 102 of the TFEU), which could lead to the application of national or EU rules relating to competition law.

State aid

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

Public subsidies in the airline sector, in particular with regard to investment in airport infrastructure and aid for regional airports or airline companies are regulated by the European Commission, which established relevant guidelines on February 20 2014.

These subsidies must comply with Article 107 and thereafter of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Notable cases

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

In a February 27 2017 decision, the Competition Authority dismissed the prosecution against a number of car rental companies and 12 French airport operators for concerted practice relating to an exchange of information system.

The authority considered that the data exchanged (which concerned turnover and the number of contracts per operator) did not reduce the rental companies’ commercial autonomy and therefore did not constitute an anti-competitive practice.

Dispute resolution


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

The most frequent disputes in the past few years have come from passengers whose flights have been delayed or cancelled due to the fixed-sum compensation provided for by EU Regulation 261/2004. The courts tend to follow the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in this matter. Following a period in which decisions made at the EU or national level increasingly reduced the field of extraordinary circumstances under which an airline could exempt itself from responsibility, an ECJ decision on May 4 2017 admitted once again that a bird strike could be considered as an extraordinary circumstance. Negotiations with passengers or their lawyers play a vital role in this regard.