• If you are based in the UK, you will need an Operating Licence from the CAA in order to operate most kinds of commercial air travel.

    Materials for making an application for an airline licence can be found in our online airline licence application pack.

    Full details of licensing requirements and the legal background are available in the publications and legislation section of this site. This page presents summaries of key information.

    Please contact the CAA with any queries or to discuss your application.

    Airline licensing reflects the nature, ownership and financial health of a business, not operational safety. Operational safety is assessed under the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) scheme.

    Operating Licences: the basic airline licence

    All commercial air carriers based in the European Economic Area (EEA; see below) are required to hold an Operating Licence . In the UK, these are issued by the CAA.

    An Operating Licence can only be granted to applicants who hold a valid AOC.

    Holders of Operating Licences are able to fly on almost all routes within the EEA, and are also able to apply for Route Licences for flights outside the EEA.

    • Air operators based in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man are subject to different regulations and are required to hold an Air Transport Licence instead of an Operating Licence.

    Route Licences: for operating flights outside Europe

    A Route Licence is required in order for EEA-based carriers to operate commercial air travel outside the EEA.

    • Route Licences can only be granted to holders of Operating Licences.

    To operate flights outside the EEA, air carriers will also need to be designated by the Secretary of State under the terms of the Air Services Agreement in place between the UK and the destination country.

    Further information about Route Licences.

    Basic licensing requirements

    To qualify for an Operating Licence, applicants must be able to demonstrate that:

    • their principal place of business is in the UK;
    • the business is majority owned and effectively controlled by nationals of EEA Member States or Member States themselves; and
    • the business has sufficient insurance

    For operators of aircraft with 20 or more seats there are also financial requirements.

    Licence holders will also be subject to continuing monitoring by the CAA.

    Further information about Operating Licences.

    Scarce Capacity

    Air Service Agreements limit the number of flights on a given route and may give rise to Scarce Capacity. If this happens, rights to operate flights will be allocated to airlines by the CAA.

    Foreign Carrier Permits

    Air operators based outside the EEA require a Foreign Carrier Permit from the CAA before operating flights to, from or within the UK.

    Further information about Foreign Carrier Permits.

    List of current licence holders

    The CAA’s list of current licence holders is available on the Licence Holders page of this website.

    Previous licensing decisions of the CAA

    The CAA sometimes has to make decisions about the allocation of scarce capacity and objections to Route Licence or Air Transport Licence applications.

    Details of judgements can be found in the Decisions section of this site.

    The European Economic Area (EEA)

    The EEA consists of all EU Member States along with several other countries. The full list of states in the EEA is as follows: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (except the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).