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Common rules for the operation of air services

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Common rules for the operation of air services

The legislation on the Single Market for air transport defines the granting of operating licences, the monitoring of airlines and their access to the market. It guarantees a competitive air transport market, quality services and more transparent fares.


Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 September 2008 establishing common rules for the operation of air services in the Community (Recast).


This Regulation regulates the licensing of Community air carriers, the law applicable to them and the pricing of air services.

Operating licence

An undertaking established in the Community cannot carry by air passengers, mail or cargo unless it has been granted the appropriate operating licence *. This Regulation sets the conditions for the granting of operating licences. The undertaking must in particular hold an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) *, comply with insurance and ownership requirements and provide financial guarantees. In addition, the management will be requested to provide proof that the undertaking is of good repute.

An operating licence shall be valid as long as the air carrier complies with the requirements defined by the Regulation. The competent licensing authority shall review compliance with these requirements two years after the granting of a new licence, if there is a problem or at the request of the Commission. This authority may at any time assess the financial performance of a Community air carrier which it has licensed.

In addition, a Community air carrier must notify the authority in advance of modifications in its activities (operation of a new service to a region not previously served, merger, acquisition, etc.). If the competent authority deems that the proposed changes will have significant financial consequences, it may request a revised business plan and decide whether the licence should be resubmitted for approval.

The competent authority must suspend the licence of an air carrier if, on the basis of the assessment of financial results, it considers that the carrier can no longer meet its obligations during a period of twelve months. It can however grant a temporary licence, pending financial reorganisation, provided that safety is not threatened and that there is a real possibility of reconstruction. Moreover the licence must be suspended if the carrier furnishes false information on an important point, if the AOC is suspended or revoked, or if the carrier no longer complies with requirements on good repute.

This Regulation also lays down the conditions for the leasing of aircraft.

Access to routes

Community air carriers are authorised to operate Community air services and Member States cannot subject their operation to any permit or authorisation. Operating freedom cannot be restricted by bilateral agreements with Member States either. Restrictions may be imposed under bilateral agreements between a Member State and a third country, as long as these restrictions do not limit competition, that they are non-discriminatory and that they are not more restrictive than necessary.

A Member State may, under certain conditions, impose a public service obligation for a scheduled air route between an airport and a peripheral or development region in the Community or on a thin route to an airport in its territory, if this route is considered as being vital for the economic and social development of the region which the airport serves. This Regulation lays down general principles for public service obligations.

The exercise of traffic rights * shall be subject to Community, national, regional and local operational rules relating to safety, security, the protection of the environment and the allocation of slots. Under certain conditions fixed by the Regulation, a Member State may regulate the distribution of air traffic between airports serving the same city or conurbation. It may also limit or refuse the exercise of traffic rights to deal with serious environmental problems or in the case of an emergency.

Provisions on pricing

Community air carriers shall freely set fares for passengers and cargo, except in the case of a public service obligation. The published price for the service shall include the fare and all applicable taxes, charges, surcharges and fees which are unavoidable and foreseeable at the time of publication. In addition, details must be given of the different components of the price (fares, taxes, airport charges and other costs). Discrimination in access to fares between passengers or between users of the cargo service on the basis of their place of residence or their nationality within the Community is prohibited.


This Regulation repeals and replaces three Regulations from the “Third aviation package”: Regulation No 2407/92 on licensing of air carriers, Regulation No 2408/92 on access for Community air carriers to intra-Community air routes, and Regulation No 2409/92 on passenger fares and air cargo rates.

Key Terms of the Act

  • Operating licence: an authorisation granted by the competent licensing authority to an undertaking, permitting it to provide air services as stated in the operating licence.
  • Air operator certificate (AOC): a certificate delivered to an undertaking confirming that the operator has the professional ability and organisation to ensure the safety of operations specified in the certificate, as provided in the relevant provisions of Community or national law, as applicable.
  • Traffic rights: the right to operate an air service between two Community airports.


Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008



OJ L 293 of 31.10.2008

Last updated: 18.11.2008