An EASA safety authorisation is required by third country operators engaged in commercial air transport operations into, within or out of the territory subject to the provisions of the Treaty [of the EU]. A third country operator (TCO) in the context of a TCO authorisation is an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) holder certified in a non-EASA member State. Commercial air transport (scheduled or non-scheduled) is defined as “flights involving the transport of passengers, cargo or mail for remuneration or hire”.
As a consequence, it is EASA’s position that regardless of the nature of passengers, cargo or mail involved, a flight performed by an AOC holder for remuneration or hire with civil aircraft constitutes commercial air transport and is subject to prior TCO authorisation by EASA if the above conditions apply.
A flight may require (additional) diplomatic clearance; however, this is unrelated to the requirement of TCO authorisation where applicable.