Region V: Europe

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Grounding Illegal Charters in Europe

May 20, 2013

Listen to a NBAA Flight Plan podcast podcast for more on attempts to stop illegal charters in Europe.

As rare as it may seem to someone in the U.S. or Canada, there are a growing number of non-commercial operators posing as commercial operators in Europe, according to the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) – a problem that poses a threat to both safety and revenue for business aviation operators in the region.

“Given the ongoing economic crisis in the aviation industry and the ensuing decrease in activity, more and more operators that invested in business aviation during the booming years now find themselves in a difficult financial situation,” said Belarmino Gonçalves Paradela, senior manager of economics and operational activities at EBAA. “A number of them have chosen to break the law, offering cheaper flights or flights that cannot be operated under the current regulatory limitations [for commercial operations].”

With virtually no enforcement infrastructure currently in place to deal with these infractions, the number of illegal [charter] flights continues to grow, he explained.

“There are business aircraft conducting commercial activities without an AOC [air operating certificate],” he said. An AOC is an approval granted by a national aviation authority to an operator, allowing it to use an aircraft for commercial purposes.

These instances of misrepresentation affect as much as 10 percent of the business aviation flights in European Union airspace, according to EBAA estimates.

“We’re looking to see whether further regulations are required,” Paradela said. “We already see that the main problem is a lack of regulations to tackle this issue. Inspectors know that this is happening, but they don’t have the tools to address it.”

The EBAA is working on the creation of tools to further identify the problem and to help bring perpetrators to justice, he said. Within the next six months, EBAA hopes to bring a consultant online to assess the economic impact of the problem.

But this goes beyond economics, Paradela warned.

“The consumer is unable see that the operator which seems to be the cheapest is the one who is reneging on safety and other critical standards to be able to lower costs. We believe there can be a direct link between the safety of the flight and the legality of a flight, but this information is most of the time hidden from the customer, who can’t asses the risks they are taking by flying with an operator who does not respect the law,” he said.

Once the consultant’s report is in hand, Paradela said the EBAA will approach both the EU Commission and the EU Parliament asking for legal remedies to the problem of illegal flight operators. He hopes that process will be underway by the end of this year.