If you are paying for a flight make sure it’s legal. There are serious safety and legal implications if it is not.

The vast majority of flights – particularly to, within EU – are operated in accordance with an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) which is a legal requirement. This includes the budget operators that offer low-fare airline flights. But passengers paying to be flown in corporate, ex-military, helicopters, balloons or light aircraft should take particular care to ensure their operator holds an AOC. Most will, but the minority of uncertificated operators should be identified and avoided.

What is an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC)?

A document that an organisation or individual is required to hold prior to operating public transport (also known as commercial air transport) flights. For Greek operators, it is issued by the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA). This means that if you as the passenger are asked to contribute in any way (not only financially) towards the cost of the flight, the flight is likely to be for the purposes of public transport, and the operator of the flight is legally required to hold such a Certificate.

What does holding an AOC mean?

Companies or individuals wishing to carry fare-paying passengers have to complete a thorough process by which they satisfy the HCAA that they are ‘competent to secure the safe operation of aircraft’. The CAA reviews the applicant’s operations manual, and audits such areas as management and organisational competence, crew training, aircraft maintenance, aircraft loading, flight planning and fuel planning amongst many other
matters. And it doesn’t stop there! Once an AOC is granted, the operation is subject to a programme of continuing surveillance.

Do AOCs just apply to airlines? What about corporate jets, ex-military and light aircraft?

AOCs are required for any public transport flight, whether in an “airliner”, a corporate jet, an ex-military type, a helicopter, balloon or a small, single-engined light aircraft.

How do I find out if the company or individual offering the flight holds an AOC?

This is very simple. Ask the company for the name of the AOC holder and the number on the document. Then if you wish to verify that the details are correct, refer to HCAA or Contact Us.
The company or individual offering the flights may sometimes be brokers and not the flight’s operator. They will be offering to arrange the flight rather than operate it themselves. However, the operator of the flight must hold an AOC, and the broker should be able to provide you with the name of the operator.

I have been offered a cheaper flight by a non-AOC holder. Why shouldn’t I take it?

First, any operator not holding an AOC will not have undergone the rigorous operational safety oversight of the HCAA. The pilots may be licensed, but subject to a much less onerous training and testing regime than that applicable to public transport operations. The crews’ working hours may be much less tightly regulated. The aircraft – which may appear clean and smart – may even be properly maintained, but to a much less demanding schedule, and may be operated to considerably less demanding standards than for public transport flights.
Second, conducting an illegal flight may have serious consequences for the certification of the aircraft itself and may invalidate any otherwise applicable insurance cover, including the passengers’ own life insurance.
In recent years there have been a number of successful prosecutions of the operators of illegal public transport flights.

What about trial lessons?

A ‘trial lesson’ is simply a first lesson which may or may not be followed by subsequent lessons. It follows that it is an instructional flight and should be conducted as such; and an abbreviated exercise such as ‘effects of controls’ or ‘straight and level’ should be taught. Instructional flights are not public transport, but aerial work, and are not subject to public transport regulations, so no AOC is required.

There are some exceptions to this requirement. For example, an AOC is not required for:

• Some flights conducted to raise money for charities
• Some flights where the direct costs are shared between the pilot and up to three passengers
• Some flights where the passengers are joint owners of the aircraft.

It is important to note that the contributions can include methods of payment other than money, e.g. free advertising or payment in kind. If you are unsure if your flight is deemed to be public transport, please Contact Us.