Third Country Operators (TCO)

EU safety authorisations for foreign air operators - PART-TCO

One single safety authorisation valid in 32 EASA Member States

Europe has centralised the process to authorise third-country (non-EU) operators performing commercial air transport operations into the EU, thereby replacing various schemes of the 32 EASA Member States currently in place. Instead, a single safety authorisation is issued centrally by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The TCO application form can be found here.


Foreign airlines’ surveillance is an ICAO Standard and already implemented for many years in several other countries, such as e.g., the United States, Canada, Australia, China and several EU member states. In 2008, the European Parliament and the European Council tasked EASA to establish a single European system for vetting the safety performance of foreign air carriers, thereby simplifying and lessening the administrative burden faced by operators from third countries. In doing so, EASA issues safety authorisations to foreign air carriers when satisfied that they comply with ICAO standards.

Applicability of Part-TCO

Any third-country operator that intends to perform commercial air transport (CAT) operations into, within or out of any of the following territories requires a TCO authorisation issued by EASA:

  • the 28 Member States of the European Union
  • the 4 EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland)
  • the following territories in which Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 , the so called “Basic Regulation” applies: Gibraltar, Åland Islands, Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Saint-Martin, Mayotte

A TCO authorisation is not required for operators only overflying the abovementioned territories without intended landing.

Risk-based approach

EASA employs a risk-based approach for TCO assessments in that credible data sources are continuously being analysed. The lower EASA’s confidence in a foreign operator’s safety performance or the less credible data available for an operator or the State in which the operator is certified, the more comprehensive the assessment. As an example, for operators with high confidence level a simple and fast desktop review of completed questionnaires and material evidence is sufficient, whereas operators with lowered confidence levels will be invited by EASA to a technical meeting in Cologne, or EASA will request to perform a TCO audit on site.

Authorisation process

Following its TCO assessment, EASA validates the foreign Air Operator Certificate (AOC) by issuing an EASA TCO Authorisation document accompanied by Technical Specifications, setting out the scope of operations authorised in the EU. Assessment criteria are applicable ICAO Standards. TCO Authorisations are free of fees and charges.

The TCO Authorisation process consists of four distinct phases: Application, Evaluation, Authorisation and Monitoring. A dedicated web-based software application supports communications between EASA and the operator.

Transitional measures

A 30-month transition period ensures smooth implementation of Part-TCO without interrupting international air operations of foreign air carriers to the EU. With Part-TCO in force since 26 May 2014, air carriers operating to the EU can continue to do so, provided they have submitted to EASA an application for TCO Authorisation. EASA determines, for each applicant, the time of the TCO assessment during that transition period. Only for TCO applications received before 26 November 2014 can EASA guarantee that the TCO assessment of an applicant operator is commenced before the end of the transition period.

Operators that do not currently hold an operating permit issued by a Member State shall, during the transition period, apply with the responsible national authorities of the EASA Member State(s) for the necessary operating permit(s) as usual. At the same time these operators should also file an application for TCO Authorisation with EASA.

The European "Safety List" mechanism

The European Safety List mechanism pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 2111/2005 is governed by the European Commission in Brussels. EASA and the European Commission ensure that both instruments are closely coordinated Operators subject to a ban or operating restriction in the EU Safety List are eligible to apply with EASA for an assessment under Part-TCO. Note: More detailed information about the interaction of the EU Air Safety List and TCO is available in the Frequently Asked Questions section.

Further information

A section containing Frequently Asked Questions and additional information is available to stakeholders.

TCO Regulation

Commission Regulation (EU) No. 452/2014 laying down technical requirements and administrative procedures related to air operations of third country operators was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 6 May 2014. Annex 1 (Part-TCO) contains the requirements for the operator, while the authority requirements regarding the authorisation of foreign operators are laid down in Annex 2 (Part-ART).

EASA has published associated Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) and Guidance Material (GM). This document is available in the document library (Part-TCO/ AMC/GM) of our website.

How third-country operators should apply for their TCO Authorisation

  1. Study the Commission Regulation (EU) No. 452/2014 and AMC/Guidance Material.
  2. Appoint a focal point for TCO Authorisation in your organisation.
  3. Subscribe to TCO “Latest news” to stay abreast latest developments.
  4. Visit the Agency’s TCO website periodically for updates and answers to frequently asked questions.
  5. If your operation is subject to Part-TCO, download the application form and apply for a TCO Authorisation
  6. Address questions to TCO [at] easa [dot] europa [dot] eu
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