Trip Planning Tips: Diplomatic Flights – Part 2: Operational Details
This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, entitled "Trip Planning Tips: Diplomatic Flights – Part 1: Tips & Considerations."
While diplomatic flights enjoy certain benefits, including the opportunity for shorter notice permits, express customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) clearance, and priority parking/handling, there are potential glitches and pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. It’s important to follow all requirements of your diplomatic permit clearance and to comply with approved flight routings. If you make revisions to schedule, routing, or destination it’s important to be compliant in terms of revision notifications.
The following is an overview of what you need to know if operating a diplomatic flight:
1. Pre-planning considerations
The challenge for 3rd-party providers, when supporting diplomatic flights, is that limited information may be available. While schedule, crew data, and passenger numbers will be provided, passenger names and certain additional information may not be included. The actual copy of the diplomatic approval, however, provides a lot of information on what the flight is permitted to do within the country. For example, some diplomatic flights may have weapons and ammunition onboard via special approvals obtained through the diplomatic process, but if appropriate approvals have not been obtained there will be issues to consider on arrival. For 3rd-party providers it’s always important to confirm all relevant requirements for each country the diplomatic flight will operate to or over.
2. Permit revisions
Once you’ve obtained a diplomatic permit it’s imperative that any revisions are processed and approved correctly. Otherwise, the aircraft may be denied entry into the airspace, and issues may arise upon arrival. Best practice is to always ensure that your flight plan follows the approved routing and FIR entry/exit points (when applicable) and that all required contact information has been provided.
3. Passport and visa considerations
Passengers traveling on diplomatic passports often do not require visas. It’s always best, however, to double check these requirements. Some crewmembers also carry diplomatic passports that they can use when flying in an official diplomatic capacity with appropriate clearances. Always check on visa requirements for any passengers/crew who are not a part of the official diplomatic delegation.
4. Customs/immigration clearance
While each country has its own CIQ clearance processes, diplomatic passengers/crew always clear in a separate area or line apart from general airline passengers. In some cases diplomatic passengers/crew may be cleared onboard the aircraft. The manner in which CIQ will clear the flight depends upon government channel arrangements set up for the particular diplomatic flight.
5. Operating to military airports
In certain cases diplomatic flights will be required to operate to, or reposition to, a military base or the military side of a civilian/military joint use airport. This is usually a requirement from the country they’re traveling to. In such cases your aircraft may be handled by military personnel and available services may be minimal. For example, catering orders may be challenging or offer only minimal options at military locations. In these cases it may be best to reposition to pick up required catering or to carry catering onboard for legs down the line.
6. Compliance considerations
You must be operating on an approved diplomatic clearance to take advantage of the privileges and allowances that are often made for such operations. Just having a diplomat on board, with a diplomatic passport, does not allow an operator to take advantage of official permit procedures. And, if you’re traveling with a diplomatic clearance it’s important to consider visa requirements for passengers/crew who do not carry diplomatic passports. In most cases onboard support personnel, without diplomatic clearance, must have appropriate visas. Keep in mind that if the aircraft is not a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) signatory carrier and the passengers’ nationalities are not on the approved VWP list, all non-diplomatic passengers who require visas must have them prior to landing. They will not be able to use Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) options for entry into the U.S.
If something does go wrong with a diplomatic flight – such as an on board nanny not having a proper visa, this can often be remedied via government to government diplomatic channels.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next diplomatic flight, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.