Flying Charter to the U.K.? Here’s What You Need to Know
Since this blog was published, there have been several critical regulatory changes impacting charter opreations to the UK. For the most current information on UK Charter Operations, please visit: http://www.universalweather.com/blog/2018/08/uk-charter-permits-regulatory-compliance
Obtaining U.K. charter (non-scheduled commercial) landing permits is usually not difficult if you have all required documents available and submit a request in correct format within the appropriate lead time. However, from time to time, you may run into the complication of a local U.K. charter operator objecting to your permit request and holding up the process or having the permit denied. Solutions may be available, if this should happen, and 3rd-party providers can assist.
1. Are U.K. permits required for all charter flights?
U.K. charter landing permits are only required for non-European Union (EU) charter flights landing in the U.K. to offload or board passengers. Fuel tech stops do not require permits. For example, Teterboro, NJ (KTEB) – Stansted, London, UK (EGSS) – Dubai, UAE (OMDB) do not require a permit if you’re not embarking or disembarking passengers. Also, if a charter flight repositions with no passengers onboard, in or out, no permit is required.
2. What are complicating factors in processing U.K. charter requests?
The process is straightforward for the most part, but there’s a list of documents that must be assembled. Every now and then, new documentation requirements are added. A requirement for Continuous Aircraft Maintenance Program documents (CAMPS), for example, was added in 2011. Additional requirements may, from time to time, cause confusion for operators that may not be familiar with them. For this reason, it’s best to communicate with your 3rd-party provider to obtain the latest landing permit requirements.
3. Where are charter landing permit requests sent?
The U.K. Department for Transport (DFT) processes charter requests and can supply a template known as a “Passenger Charter Flight Application Form” to operators and/or 3rd-party providers. The application includes information on aircraft, operator, and schedule, as well as names of inbound and outbound passengers for each leg. The completed application is forwarded, along with required documentation, to the DFT. Operators not utilizing a 3rd-party provider may go to the U.K. DFT website for the application and overview of requirements.
4. What’s the deadline to request a charter landing permit?
Official lead time is five working days (Monday-Friday 9 am – 5 pm are normal operating times for DFT), but a minimum of 48 hours must be provided prior to scheduled departure. An out-of-hours duty officer is available on the weekend for emergencies only. Short-notice approvals of less than 48 hours’ notification are at the discretion of the DFT, but most likely are not an option. Revisions are required for some schedule, crew, or passenger changes. If you are just facing a time delay that’s within 24 hours of scheduled departure, it’s a simple matter of notifying DFT.
5. In what ways are U.K. charter landing permits unique?
After applying for your U.K. charter landing permit, the operator or 3rd-party provider must provide trip details to a group of local U.K.-based charter operators if certain freedom acts are involved. If your proposed flight includes “cabotage” involving 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th freedoms, local charter operators have 24 hours to file an objection to your charter request. Operators or 3rd-party providers must forward trip details to the local U.K.-charter group with a copy to the DFT, including operator name, nationality, aircraft type, and tail number. Until December 2011, this information was provided to the operator group via the DFT, but the onus is now on 3rd-party providers and/or operators, depending on who is requesting the permit. If a local charter operator lodges an objection and provides details of a comparable U.K. aircraft available to fulfill the mission, your charter permit will be held up until this is resolved or denied. U.K.-based operators must be able to provide a similar aircraft (within 20 seats capacity of aircraft on the charter request), but charter price is not a consideration for the DFT. So, even if the “objector” proposes a charter price 50% higher than your negotiated rate, the objection may still stand with your permit held up or denied.
6. What recourse is available to a charter operator if an “objection” is filed?
We see fewer objections when the market is busy, as fewer U.K.-based charter aircraft are available. Generally, 60% – 75% of filed objections are resolved and the original charter goes ahead as planned. If an objection is lodged, have your 3rd-party provider “qualify” the objector and then begin negotiations with the objector to try to find a resolution. Non-EU registered charter operators have been successful in overruling objections due to lower cabin pressure for passengers with medical conditions or onboard smoking policies that objectors have not been able to match with proposed replacement aircraft. However, your charter request will be held up until the objector notifies the DFT that the objection is withdrawn. If you’re not working with a 3rd-party provider, the DFT will inform you about how to copy flight details to the local charter group. Another option to avoid an objection is to re-route the flight to avoid cabotage. For example, you can alter Bridgetown, Barbados (TBPB) – EGSS to TBPB – Miami, FL (KMIA) – EGSS when using a U.S.-registered aircraft, but such changes can add considerable operator cost. Also, once you’ve received a charter landing permit, you may make changes, including schedule delays, without requirement to re-notify the local U.K. charter operator group.
7. Any other tips on successfully securing a U.K. charter landing permit?
There’s a defined lead time when submitting charter applications to the U.K. The U.K. DFT does not maintain documents on file, so you’ll need to re-send all documentation for each charter permit request. It’s best to provide a complete charter schedule (not just U.K. arrival and departure portion) in both the permit request to the U.K. DFT and local U.K. charter operator notification when a freedom act is involved. If the U.K. element of a proposed trip is a small portion of a larger charter trip, local operators may be less likely to object to your permit. Keep in mind that the local U.K. charter group notification only applies when the proposed charter permit involves cabotage.
U.K. DFT is usually very accommodating in terms of charter landing permit requests and revisions. The complicating factor in a charter landing-permit request is not having all documentation assembled and ready along with the objection process when applicable. Best practice is to confirm all documentation requirements with your 3rd-party provider well in advance.
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