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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?

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.


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.


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.


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.


What taxes apply to the provision of air carrier services?

Not applicable.  

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