EEA air carriers may fly on most routes within the EEA without any further licence being required. For services either wholly or partly outside the EEA a licence holder will normally need to hold an additional licence, a Route Licence, which is also granted by the CAA; Route Licences can be granted only to holders of Operating Licences.
Despite their name, Route Licences do not normally cover just a single route. The most commonly granted licences permit any operations that are within the area permitted by the holder’s Air Operator’s Certificate, though there may be specific restrictions placed in specific circumstances. For scheduled services outside the EEA, the possession of a Route Licence does not however necessarily mean that the licence holder is free to commence services; it must also be designated by the Secretary of State under the terms of the bilateral Air Service Agreement between the UK and the country to which it is intended to operate. Although the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are part of the UK, they are not members of the EU and therefore the Market Access Regulation does not apply.
There are statutory procedures for the processing of Route Licence applications, set out in The Civil Aviation Authority Regulations 1991 (as amended). These allow for the publication of an application and give an opportunity for objections to be made by licence holders or other interested parties. In normal circumstances the CAA will publish an application in its weekly Licensing Notices as soon as possible after receipt, allowing 21 days for objections to be made. If a valid objection is made, the matter has to be decided at a public hearing at which the applicant and objector are present. The CAA will reach a decision after the hearing and publish a written decision. Although it aims to deliver decisions as quickly as possible, if a public hearing is required the process will normally take at least two months after the end of the objection period. Unopposed applications may however be dealt with very quickly after the end of the objection period.
Further details on what is required for the grant and retention of a Route Licence are set out in Licensing Airlines in the UK.