United Kingdom Third Country Operator Certificates (TCO) – Business Aviation Guide

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As a result of BREXIT, at the end of 2022, the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA) no longer accepts European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Third Country Operator Certificates (TCOs) as the basis for applying for a UK charter permit.

Despite this being known well in advance, many foreign-based charter operators continue to be negatively impacted and denied UK charter permits because they did not apply for a TCO prior to the 2022 end-of-year deadline.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a UK TCO Certificate?

A UK TCO certificate is a document that certifies that an airline from a non-European Union (EU) country meets the necessary safety standards and is authorized to operate flights into and out of the United Kingdom.

Prior to BREXIT, foreign-based charter operators could enter the UK with an EASA TCO.

However, that changed with UK officially leaving the European Union as a result of BREXIT, as the UK CAA no longer follows EU Regulations and decisions as of 1 January 2021.

UK TCO Purpose and Validity

A UK TCO is issued by UK CAA and is valid for two years. To obtain a TCO certificate, an airline must demonstrate compliance with the necessary safety and security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This certificate ensures that the airline operates safely and meets the necessary regulatory requirements to fly in and out of the UK.

Temporary Grace Period

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Although no longer following EU Regulations following BREXIT, UK CAA did give operators a sort of grace period and allowed foreign-based charter operators with an EASA TCO to continue to operate into the UK with a hard cut-off point of Dec. 31, 2022.

From Jan. 1, 2023, EASA TCOs are no longer accepted and foreign-based charter operators must have a UK TCO and will not be granted a UK charter permit without one.

UK TCO Application Process

Due to a number of factors, including manpower, the volume of applicants, etc., UK CAA is currently extremely backlogged in processing UK TCO applications.

It’s now taking 3-4 weeks from submission to approval and there is no miracle solution as CAA has a very full inbox with the volume of applications and the huge amounts of information each operation has to submit and then have assessed.

Are There Workarounds for Foreign Charter Operators Without a UK TCO

A common question we receive: “Is there a way around this?”

Short answer: No.

Foreign-based charter operators with potential missions to the UK and Europe, this is not a nice to have…it’s a MUST HAVE. Apply ASAP.

Applying for a UK TCO

Universal Aviation Stansted

The full guidance on how to apply for a UK TCO can be read here. If you have any questions, our Universal Aviation UK team can help.

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