Update on third country operator (TCO) exemptions for cargo transportation in passenger compartments

Following the global logistic disruption caused by COVID-19, some Third Country Operator (TCO) authorisation holders were granted exemptions, issued by their competent authorities, that allow for the transportation of cargo in the passenger cabin of large aeroplanes. Based on the issued exemptions and a review of the related documentation, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) did not object to this kind of operation to support the transportation of medical supplies and other important goods into, within, or out of EU territories as efficiently as possible.

After reviewing the operational context for transport of cargo in passenger cabins, EASA concluded that the logistical challenges that arose in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, no longer exist to the same extent. Therefore, with the increasing traffic, cargo capacity in the holds of passenger aircraft is expected to increase by summer 2022, thus reducing the pressure on the logistic chain.

Under the current circumstances, EASA decided that non-objections granted to TCO authorisation holders for cargo transportation in the passenger cabin will no longer be valid after 31 July 2022.

After 31 July 2022, as a matter of demonstrated urgent need for medical supply transportation only in the passenger cabin, operators may exceptionally consider applying for a new EASA non-objection.

When applying for urgent medical supply transportation EASA non-objection, please submit your request to tco [at] easa.europa.eu. The application will be processed with priority in view of the ‘urgent and unplanned needs’ when received during working hours (Mon – Fri 08:00-17:00 CET). The time needed for your request’s assessment will depend on the quality and completeness of the information and supporting documents received, as well as your response time in case of additional questions.

The application can be done only for an authorised aircraft that is listed in the TCO Web-Interface “Basic Operator Data” section. When applying for the non-objection, please provide the following information:

  • Flight date;
  • Route;
  • Aircraft type and registration.

In addition to the above-listed information, please provide:

  • Proof that the only material transported in the passenger cabin is ‘medical supply’;
  • Justification of the urgent need and unplanned nature of the flight. As an example, urgent need could be justified by a State issued letter requesting for an urgent medical support thus requiring the operator to urgently transport medical supplies, such as vaccines.

Please be aware that you also need to provide evidence that airworthiness aspects were considered as part of your cargo in cabin exemption approval process, as communicated in our latest TCO cargo in cabin communication “Update on third country operator (TCO) exemptions for cargo transportation in passenger compartment” dated 27 April 2022, unless already provided before. The following is considered as proper supporting evidence:

  • Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) changes;
  • Supplement Type Certificate (STC);
  • Airworthiness approval issued by State of Registry according to ICAO Annex 6;
  • Evidence from competent authority (e.g. circular, letter, guidance document) confirming that airworthiness aspects are taken into consideration;
  • Operator’s approved operations manual covering airworthiness aspects linked to the exemption; or
  • Risk assessment made by the operator confirming that airworthiness aspects have been taken into consideration.

The following limitations will remain in force:

  • Carriage of Dangerous Goods in the passenger cabin is not authorised, with the exception of vaccines cooled by ice;
  • Carriage of mix passengers and cargo in the cabin at the same time is not authorised (except if the aircraft is certified as “combi” aircraft);
  • Cargo shall only be transported by operators holding valid cargo transport approvals.

Upon issuance of the ‘EASA non-objection’ (if positively assessed), EASA will inform the concerned Member States to plan SAFA/RAMP inspections. During these, SAFA/RAMP inspectors will verify the nature of cargo and TCO authorisation holders may be requested to provide proper justification for the flight with the EASA non-objection. Therefore, flight crews should be ready to present to ramp inspectors the following documentation:

  • Proof that the only material transported in the cabin is ‘medical supply’;
  • Justification of the urgent need and unplanned nature of the flight.

Additional information and guidance may be found in:

Should you need further clarifications, please contact tco [at] easa.europa.eu.

EASA Air Operators Oversight Section