Best Practices for Business Aircraft Ops in Asia
Over recent years it’s become generally easier to transit and land within the Asian region, but there are still many important issues to be aware of. Permit lead times, visa requirements, and local operating restrictions have the potential to complicate business aviation missions to this region for the unprepared.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Consider permit lead times
Some countries in this region – including China and Mongolia – are particularly stringent on permit lead times. They’re also strict on documentation requirements. Short-notice trips, or short-notice trip changes, may limit your ability to obtain permits. Be aware, also, of permit processing hours. Many Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) do not process permits 24 hours, and offices often shut down on holidays and/or weekends.
Overflight and landing permits for this region usually involve four to five working days’ lead time. Mongolia, however, requires 14 business days to issue landing permits, and Indonesia requires up to seven days’ lead time. There are countries that mandate out-of-the-norm permit documentation. For example the Philippines needs to have a color photo of your aircraft before a landing permit will be issued.
2. Know security threat levels
Local security threats and civil uprisings – often due to regional political and religious issues – occur in this region. We’ve seen issues in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Obtain security briefings in advance, consider putting a guard on your aircraft, and check if guards (armed or unarmed) are permitted at your destination airports. Also, have a backup plan in case you need to depart at a moment’s notice.
3. Consider crew and passenger visa requirements
Always confirm applicable visa requirements in advance of travel. Your ground handler will assist with this. Most countries in this region do not offer visas on arrival, so you’ll need visas before you go. Visa process for some countries can be complex. For example China requires crew members to have specific type "C" visas in most cases. When you travel to this region, it’s best to use passports that can be electronically scanned. Using non-machine-readable older passports may cause delays with customs, immigration, and quarantine clearance.
4. Know sponsor letter process
Many countries – including China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Thailand – require a business sponsor or business contact prior to issuing permits. You’ll need to provide a business entity, name, job title within the company, and sponsor contact information. The CAA will usually contact this person to confirm the flight, itinerary, and details of passengers entering/leaving the country. The same business contact may need to ensure that an appropriate letter is drafted for visas. Sponsor letters for visa and permit purposes are often different. In China the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) wants your sponsor to take responsibility for the flight. There will be permit delays if discrepancies are found in sponsor information sent to CAAC.
5. Confirm applicable vaccination requirements
Best practice is to confirm local vaccination requirements and recommendations with your 3rd-party provider and/or ground handler, as well as with your physician. Singapore recommends yellow fever and dengue fever vaccinations, and Laos recommends yellow fever vaccinations – especially if you are traveling outside the larger cities.
6. Credit can be an issue at remote destinations
It’s always best to use ground handlers that accept or can arrange credit at your destination. Always check with your ground handler in advance to be sure that credit is available for ground handling and airport fees – particularly at remote locations. Advance arrangements may be required in order to set up credit in Sri Lanka for example or at domestic airports in China and Vietnam.
7. Consider local ground transport and hotel options
Find out what transportation options are available at your destination as well as approximate travel times and peak traffic periods between your hotel and the airport. It’s usually best to avoid local taxis. Arrange pre-paid transport (car with driver) if possible to sidestep language barriers and unexpected charges. Although English is spoken in many countries, there are not many English-speaking drivers in countries such as China. It’s often best to have your ground handler escort crew members to the hotel to ensure adequate communications. Hotel options may be limited outside of large metropolitan areas. At remote domestic airports, you’ll need to research hotel accommodations to avoid surprises. Always confirm amenities offered – such as bed size, standard amenities, etc. – at such remote locations. Consider getting a hotel security report as part of your aviation security pre-planning.
8. Permit requirements vary depending on type of flight
Permit requirements often differ depending if your flight is private non-revenue or charter (non-scheduled commercial). For example private non-revenue flights do not need overflight or landing permits for Japan, but charter flights may require both landing and overflight permits. There are cabotage issues to consider in many countries, including China, and this may vary depending on your type of flight.
9. Be aware of travel/routing restrictions
Restrictions exist on direct travel between Taiwan and China. Such travel is not permitted for most operators. Domestic airports in this region need to be verified to ensure travel is permitted. Certain airports may have temporary restrictions due to local security situations. Parking may not be available at your airport of choice. For example, due to increased traffic in Hong Kong (VHHH), there may be no overnight parking availability. In most cases you will not be able to use random routings in this region. There are restricted airways to consider in China, and certain airways are only available for domestic use in China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
10. Know other permit nuances
It’s best to ensure that permit confirmations are always included in section 18 of your flight plans. Permits are integral to airport slot confirmations in many cases. So, if you don’t have a landing permit, airport slots will not be processed. For example at Seoul (RKSI) your ground handler will need to know your landing permit number (if you’ve arranged it on your own) in order to proceed with airport slot arrangements. For this reason it’s best to use one 3rd-party provider – and not to split services – to ensure all services, permits, etc. are arranged appropriately.
When you operate to the Asian region, best practice is to research operating requirements and restrictions in advance with your 3rd-party provider. Check to ensure that all required documentation has been compiled and submitted and that all destination services and credit have been pre-arranged.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to this region, contact me at email@example.com.