United Arab Emirates: Aviation Law - Country Guide: UAE - Q & A

Last Updated: 7 December 2017
Article by Rini Agarwal and Smriti Ganotra
Most Read Contributor in United Arab Emirates, July 2019


1.1 Please list and briefly describe the principal legislation and regulatory bodies which apply to and/ or regulate aviation in your jurisdiction.

The UAE's principal legislation governing aviation law is as follows:

  • Federal Law Number 20 of 1991 regarding the civil aviation (the Civil Aviation Law);
  • Federal Law Number 4 of 1996 concerning the Aviation Authority (the Aviation Authority Law);
  • Federal Law Number 20 of 2001 concerning the amendments in the Aviation Authority Law; and
  • Federal Law Number 8 of 1983 issuing Commercial Transaction Law, providing rules for Air Carriage.
  • Federal Act Number 22 of 1972 concerning the participation by the UAE in the project for the establishment of an Arab Testing Unit for Air Navigation Equipment.

Regulations include:

  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Licensing Regulation of July 2011;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – General Regulation of March 2013;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Operations Regulation of July 2011;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Airworthiness Regulations of July 2011;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Aviation Safety Regulations of February 2011;
  • Civil Aviation Regulations – Aviation Security Regulations of May 2016;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Air Navigation Regulations of September 2011;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Aerodromes Emergency Services of February 2017;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Safety Management System of June 2016;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Concerning Unmanned Aircraft System (CAR UAS) in February 2017;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air of May 2015;
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Foreign Operators Regulation of October 2016; and
  • Civil Aviation Regulation – Light Sports Aircraft of March 2013.

The Civil Aviation Law applies to all aircraft registered in the UAE, air traffic control, communications and civil airports, whereas the Aviation Authority Law has established the General Civil Aviation Authority (the GCAA). The GCAA is the regulatory authority which is designated to ensure proper compliance with the Civil Aviation Law in the UAE, whilst emphasizing the concept of security and safety. Having exclusive authority over the aviation industry in the UAE, the GCAA is responsible for en-route air navigation services and all aspects of air safety.

Subsequently, each Emirate has its own aviation authority which regulates all matters related to aviation in its respective Emirate, such as the Dubai Aviation Authority established under Law Number 21 of 2007, Department of Abu Dhabi Civil Aviation, Department of Civil Aviation of Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah Department of Civil Aviation, Department of Civil Aviation Fujairah.

1.2 What are the steps which air carriers need to take in order to obtain an operating license?

There are several steps involved in obtaining an operating license for air carriers which are as follows:

Pre-application Stage: Prior to submitting an online application, the applicant is required to meet with the GCAA and should discuss his initial plan during his pre-application meetings. During this stage, the applicant submits a pre-application statement of intent and the documents required by the GCAA. On the basis of information provided by the applicant, the GCAA will provide the formal application to be submitted by the applicant.

Formal Application Stage: This stage commences when the applicant submits a formal application for an Air Operator Certificate (the AOC) along with several documents and manuals describing its operations as directed by the GCAA. The application should begin at least 90 days prior to the actual revenue operations.

Document Evaluation Stage: This stage involves a detailed evaluation of documents and manuals for their content and compliance. During this stage, the GCAA will ascertain the technical fitness of the operations proposed by the operator. The documents and manuals submitted for consideration should not be at least 60 days prior to the commencement of proposed operations in order to avoid undue delay.

Inspection Stage: During this stage, the GCAA will inspect whether or not the physical facilities and equipment proposed by the applicant are suitable for the type and size of the operations. The applicant must demonstrate his ability to comply with all requirements and operating practices prior to the beginning of actual revenue operations.

Certification Stage: The stage begins when the GCAA is satisfied from the applications and proposed operations of the applicant and takes a necessary step to issue AOC. However, if the GCAA is unsatisfied during the Inspection Stage, the Certification Stage will not take place until the safety and security requirements are complied with.

1.3 What are the principal pieces of legislation in your jurisdiction which govern air safety, and who administers air safety?

The principal piece of legislation which governs air safety is the Civil Aviation Law; however, there is Aviation Safety Regulations (the Safety Regulation) of February 2011 which governs the air safety. The Safety Regulation consists of three chapters which include passenger cabin safety, transport of dangerous goods by air, aviation accident and incident investigation.

The Aviation security affairs sector administer and provide safety to the aviation industry, and the sector consists of several departments as follows:

  • Air Navigation and Aerodrome (the ANA);
  • Airworthiness (the AW);
  • Flight Operations (the FOP);
  • Licensing (the LIC); and
  • Policy, Regulations, and Planning (the PRP).

1.4 Is air safety regulated separately for commercial, cargo, and private carriers? Are air charters regulated separately for commercial, cargo and private carriers?

Commercial aircrafts, as well as private aircrafts, e regulated pursuant to the Civil Aviation Regulations on Air Safety of February 2011, and the Civil Aviation Regulations on Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air of May 2015 regulates cargos.

Air charters for commercial, cargo, and private carriers are regulated under the Air Safety Regulation of February 2011.

1.5 Are airports state-owned or privately owned?

All the major airports in each Emirate are owned by the government of the respective Emirate or the Department of Civil Aviation in that Emirate. However, there are several privately-owned airports in Abu Dhabi, such as: Al Futaysi Airport, owned by Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan; Al Jazeirah Airport, owned by Al Jazeirah Aviation Club; Arzanan Airport, owned by the Zakum Development Company; and Buhasa Airport, owned by the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations.

1.6 Do the airports impose requirements on carriers flying to and from the airports in your jurisdiction?

UAE airports impose several charges on outbound and inbound airlines, as follows:

  • Passenger Service Charges (the PSC), which is to be paid by the outbound airline. Infants, aircraft operating crew and transit/ transfer passengers continuing travel within 24 hours are exempted from PSC.
  • Passenger Security and Safety Fee (the PSSF), payable on outbound airlines. Infants, aircraft operating crew and transit/transfer passengers continuing travel within 24 hours are exempted from PSSF.
  • Advance Passenger Information Fee (the API) for arriving passengers on inbound airlines. Infants, aircraft operating crew and transit passengers continuing travel within 12 hours are exempted from API.
  • Passenger Facility Charge (the PFC), which has recently been implemented and is payable by outbound airlines for departing passengers. Infants, operating crew and transit passengers with two flights on the same journey are exempted; however, transfer passengers are obliged to pay this charge.

1.7 What legislative and/or regulatory regime applies to air accidents? For example, are there any particular rules, regulations, systems and procedures in place which need to be adhered to?

Civil Aviation Regulation Part VI-Chapter 3 (the Air Accident Regulation) applies to air accident and incident investigation(s). The Air Accident Regulation governs commercial, private, leased and chartered aircraft. It further includes, but is not limited to, the procedure for investigation, objectives of the investigation, powers of investigators, responsibilities of the GCAA, the roles of the investigating committee, investigations conducted by foreign states, besides other key provisions.


  1. Any person having knowledge of an aircraft accident or incident should immediately notify the GCAA, and such notification should include all the details including, but not limited to: the manufacturer, model, nationality, registration mark and serial number of the aircraft; complete details of the owner; the date and time of the accident; complete details of the flight commander and cabin crew; the last point of departure; and the landing destination;
  2. Upon the receipt of the information, the GCAA will request that the state of the operator, the state of the manufacturer and the state of design provide the complete details regarding the aircraft.

Thereafter, the GCAA will establish an Accident Investigation Committee to investigate the cause of such accident.

1.8 Have there been any recent cases of note or other notable developments in your jurisdiction involving air operators and/or airports?

The Dubai Government is planning to increase the number of flights, and it is anticipated that it will handle 100 million passengers on a daily basis.

To read this Guide in full, please click here.

Originally Published in ICLG to Aviation Law 2018.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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