The Importance of Having a Checklist for International Trips – Part 1

PT 3 M minute read
The Importance of Having a Checklist for International Trips – Part 1

Having a checklist to go through prior to any international flight is always best practice. There are many things that can change depending on the parameters of a trip, and operators need to consider all of that prior to the day of operation. International trip planning involves many details, and the potential for problems to arise can be high when a piece of the puzzle is overlooked.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Have aircraft and crew/passenger documentation in order

You’ll run into problems if your aircraft is ramp-checked, and required documentation is not onboard. Always carry original or certified copies of all aircraft documentation, along with extra copies, in case airport authorities require them. Ensure that crew medicals are up to date and pilot licenses are correctly rated for the aircraft being operated. Some countries – such as Brazil – require that the airline transport pilot (ATP) license is from the same country the aircraft is registered in. Other countries – such as Venezuela – require that a pilot 40 years of age or older must possess a first-class medical certificate within the last six months. If not, your aircraft will not be permitted to proceed. Ensure that any required crew/passenger visas and vaccinations are obtained, that passports have at least six months’ remaining validity, and that local sponsor letters (when required, as in the case of China and some Middle Eastern destinations) have been organized. At some locations, visas may be obtained on arrival, but this may involve significant delays, costs and limitations on the length of your stay.

2. Consider restrictions when landing at, or overflying, certain countries

You may have restrictions, in terms of your insurance coverage or company standard operating procedures (SOP), limiting your ability to operate to or overfly certain countries. It’s always best to provide details of such restrictions, in advance, to your 3rd-party provider, as this may impact the route of flight. Be aware also of restrictions in terms of sanctioned countries, as you may not be able to fly to those destinations unless appropriate permissions have been obtained.

3. Be aware of airport, customs and curfew restrictions

If your destination is not an Airport of Entry (AOE), additional stops, and costs, will likely be incurred. If you land at an airport that’s not an AOE, you may be grounded or subject to fines. Be aware that even though an airport may be a 24-hour AOE, customs operating hours may not be 24/7. Always ensure, in advance, that customs clearance can be obtained for your planned schedule when needed. For airports that are not 24 hours, confirm all airport curfews, including noise restrictions, and have your 3rd-party provider check if airport and/or customs overtime is available.

4. Ensure that fuel and fuel credit is available

Prior to day of operation, confirm that fuel is available and fuel credit has been arranged. At many locations in Africa, and some Caribbean destinations during high season, fuel shortages may exist. Always confirm fuel credit arrangements with your 3rd-party provider. Some locations will require a few days’ notice to arrange fuel, while others may specify that a fuel release be sent in advance. While it’s good practice to carry several aviation fuel cards, as well as consumer credit cards as a backup, it’s best to avoid carrying large amounts of cash. If you’re unsure of fuel quality at a location, request that the fuel be tested. It’s always best practice to monitor fuel uplifts, as some fuelers will keep fueling until advised to stop.

5. Be mindful of security concerns

Understand the geopolitical situation at your destination and consider a security briefing to determine if aircraft or crew security is needed. Be aware of the cultural norms at your destinations. In Thailand, for example, avoid wearing red, as you may be associated with a political party. Best practice, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area, is to use vetted pre-paid car and driver transportation in order to minimize local security risks.

6. Additional tools

Here’s an international trip planning checklist to assist you.


Ensure that all basic pre-planning steps are considered prior to international operations. While your 3rd-party provider and local ground handlers are valuable resources, it’s important to keep service providers informed and up to date on any internal flight department operating restrictions that may be in place.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance in planning your next trip, contact me at

Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers additional checklist items for your international trip.

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