Commercial and civil aviation in the Dominican Republic is governed by the Civil Aviation Board (JAC), the Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC) and the Specialised Body of Airports and Civil Aviation Security (CESAC).
JAC is the consulting body for government authorities concerning air transport policies and the ruling and executive body for economic matters.
IDAC is a specialised independent and technical body in charge of aviation safety. It supervises and controls civil aviation, particularly the enforcement of relevant rules and regulations.
CESAC is the authority for civil aviation security, and the body responsible for enforcement and compliance with the National Programme of Civil Aviation Security.
The basic legal framework includes the following laws:
- Law No. 491-06, dated 28 December 2006, on Dominican Republic Civil Aviation (LAC);
- Law No. 188-11, dated 22 July 2011, on Airport and Civil Aviation Security; and
- Law No. 8-78, dated 17 November 1978, on Airport Commission.
The Dominican Republic has entered into bilateral agreements with more than 40 countries for opening commercial airlines routes.
IDAC is responsible for air navigation safety and takes all measures and regulations to guarantee aviation safety.
IDAC supervises the fulfilment of the safety rules set out in appendices 1, 2, 11, 14 and 68 of the Chicago Convention. Also IDAC has the authority to check the fulfilment of flight rules and inspect mechanical conditions and aircraft airworthiness.
According to LAC, the pilot shall have final authority concerning all matters related to the aircraft while he or she is in charge of the aircraft.
IDAC is authorised to validate licences issued by other member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to pilots, crew and mechanics that are going to support or operate Dominican aircraft.
Surveillance and air traffic control rules accord with ICAO rules, while safety rules accord with provisions set out in the Chicago Convention and its appendices.
Access to the market is regulated. National air operators must obtain an economic authorisation certificate (CAE), issued by JAC, and they must also obtain an air operator's certificate (AOC), issued by IDAC.
Foreign air operators need an operation permission issued by JAC, which shall be issued after confirming that they comply with safety specifications provided by IDAC and the security aviation rules provided by CESAC.
JAC could refuse to issue permissions or authorisations for certain routes, if it considers traffic needs are satisfied.
LAC provides that air transport services are reserved to national air operators, but they could be granted to foreign air operators from countries that have entered into agreements or treaties with the Dominican Republic.
To determine and guarantee the capacity and economic and financial suitability of national air operators they must apply for an economic authorisation certificate from JAC.
Foreign air operators prove their financial and economical capacity by submitting the permissions issued by the relevant authorities in their countries.
According to LAC, national companies are those whose capital and substantial ownership is owned by Dominican citizens with at least a 35 per cent share and their board of directors is composed of Dominicans in the same proportion. Also, national companies are those where 50 per cent plus one of the directing staff not on the board are Dominican and those having their headquarters located in the Dominican Republic.
On 24 April 2013, the Dominican Republic enacted Law 67-13, which amended certain aspects of the Civil Aviation Law
The main goal of this amendment is to change the requirements for a national air operator. Pursuant to this new law a company with foreign capital in full (100 per cent) can be considered as a national air operator, provided, however, that the investment is coming from an internationally known airline and be approved by the executive branch.
Nowadays most operating airlines are from abroad. Dominican authorities have an open and flexible policy to allow the entry of new foreign air operators into the market.
To operate a route, national air operators need a CAE issued by JAC, and an AOC issued by IDAC.
National air operator applicants must prove to JAC that they comply with nationality requirement in connection with company ownership and control. Furthermore, the national air operator must prove compliance with the National Civil Aviation Security Programe as set forth by CESAC, as well as financial and economic supporting information, feasibility studies, etc.
Licences for foreign companies are issued according to reciprocity agreements entered into by the Dominican Republic and the operator's country. However, JAC is authorised to issue an operation licence without an agreement or reciprocity statement.
Once the licence application is submitted and the applicant has proved compliance with requirements, JAC shall hold a public hearing in relation to the application. Any interested party that considers themselves affected can appear at the hearing and oppose the licensing.
When the hearing is over, JAC shall pass a resolution approving or refusing the licence. JAC decisions are appealable before the Court.
There is no specific access and competition policy in the transport field. In the Dominican Republic there is a very flexible licensing and permission granting system, which is based on reciprocity criteria and open skies treaties and conventions that have been entered into with several countries.
Aviation Authority could refuse to issue licences or authorizations for certain routes if air traffic necessities are completely satisfied.
Authorities could refuse or cancel operation licences when air transport services without schedule or isolated frequency are an unfair competition to airlines established in the market.
To obtain an operation licence, a foreign air operator must prove to JAC the following:
- that it is suitable, willing and qualified to perform international commercial air transport and to comply with the legal provisions, rules and regulations;
- that it is qualified and it has been designated by its government to be engaged in international commercial air transport under the terms of an agreement entered into with the Dominican state or that such transport is in the public interest; and
- that its government has granted or is able to grant reciprocity to Dominican air transport companies.
Charter flights are regulated, which states any foreign air operator not having an operation licence shall apply for a charter flights authorisation through a foreign air operator aircraft by a consignee in charter flights.
The requirements to obtain a charter flights authorisation are less than those required for regular flights, therefore it is a quicker and easier proceeding.
Airfares shall be approved by JAC. Airfares are typically ruled by air transport agreements entered into by the Dominican Republic and other countries.
Aircraft registration is regulated. The Nation Aircraft Registry was created by IDAC. An aircraft could be registered by Dominicans and foreign citizens who are domiciled in the Dominican Republic.
Before an aircraft is registered in the Dominican Republic, the previous registration must to be cancelled.
Mortgages and charges on Dominican Republic aircraft can be recorded in the National Aircraft Registry. Mortgages are recorded by notarised documents, in accordance with Civil Code provisions.
According with rule an aircraft can be detained only with the relevant court authorisation, based on debts derived from airport and air navigation services rendered.
Aircraft maintenance is also regulated. These regulations are applicable to aircraft with registration issued in the Dominican Republic.
IDAC must ensure the proper maintenance of aircraft registered in the Dominican Republic.
Likewise, the law provides that an air operator must ensure that aircraft maintenance and operations are performed in the public interest and according to law provisions, rules, regulations, directives and orders issued by IDAC.
When aircraft are registered overseas, IDAC is not directly involved in their maintenance and it is just involved in control and ramp revisions.
Aviation rules provides that any aircraft entering to or departing from Dominican territory shall comply with the airworthiness rules provided by IDAC. Furthermore, IDAC shall accept the airworthiness certificates issued by the European Safety Aviation Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States (FAA). Airports are bound to comply with safety rules set by IDAC.
There is no specific guideline for assigning a slot; airport operators usually assign the slots by arrival time order or as agreed with air operators.
The Airport Commission rules ground handling, which approves contracts and services fees in all Dominican Republic airports.
According to LAC, IDAC has to offer, supervise and monitor air traffic control services and ensure they are performed at an optimum safety level, as per ICAO rules. RAD 11 rules all matters related to air traffic control services.
Liability and Accidents
Civil Aviation Law provides rules on civil liability of air operators for national and international flights. Article 194 states that air operators are bound to compensate for damage arising from death or any injury suffered by a passenger related to transport.
Air operators shall also compensate for damage derived from loss, destruction, breakdown or cargo or baggage delay.
The law provides that air operators shall have mandatory insurance, which has to be in accordance with the Montreal Convention 1999 and guideline set by local aviation authorities.
The Dominican civil law sets compensation not only for material damages but also for damages for pain and suffering.
When damage or loss occurs on international flights, the operator's liability shall be limited as provided in international treaties to which the Dominican Republic is a party.
According with the local regulations an air operator shall compensate any person suffering damage caused by something falling from or coming off an aircraft in flight over national territory.
The Aviation Accidents Investigation Commission, was created to conduct the technical investigation into any serious accident involving civil aircraft in Dominican Republic territory and in international waters when Dominican-registered aircraft are involved. CIAA is an independent body from IDAC and JAC and follows the guidelines set out in appendix 13 of the Chicago Convention.
In addition, mentioned commission has powers to investigate serious accidents occurred abroad where aircraft registered in the Dominican Republic are involved providing, however, that a convention or agreement has been entered into by the Dominican Republic and the state where the accident occurred.
According to LAC any authority having knowledge of an accident must report it to IDAC. Likewise, any owners, operators or crew members shall report promptly to IDAC any accidents or incidents in aircraft under their responsibility within Dominican territory and in Dominican-registered aircraft abroad.
There are no aviation sector-specific regulations in the Dominican Republic related to this matter, therefore the general guidelines provided in Law No. 42-08 on the defence of competition apply.
There is no specific regulator for aviation competition. However, JAC regulates some aspects of competition such as airfares, air traffic and frequencies. Regulations on competition are applied by the National Commission for the Defence of Competition (Pro-Competition), an independent body created under Law No. 42-08 for the defence of competition.
According to the general law on competition defence, the relevant market comprises the economic activity and a specific geographic zone, in a scenario that includes all replaceable or interchangeable goods and services, and all immediate competitors with whom customers could come into contact in the short term, without restriction or abuse, which should cause a significant increase in prices.
The main object of regulation is to promote and defend competition to increase the economical efficiency in the market in order to benefit consumers.
The legal system recognises and protects the freedom to engage in business, commercial and industrial activities. Regulations for the defence of competition are in the public interest, which is binding and required of any economic agent.
The law prevents and sanctions agreements and practices against competition and abuse of dominant position in connection with a relevant market. Likewise, unfair competition is prevented and sanctioned by law.
Pro-Competition can impose the following measures and sanctions:
- suspension and termination of factors or behaviour causing the damage to competition;
- fines from 30 to 3,000 minimum salaries depending on the breach of free completion; and
- obligations against the economic agent or sanctioned person to correct the market distortion and recover the competition.
The law provides the absolute nullity of acts, anti-competition agreements and agreed practices.
The Dominican Republic has no special legislation for protecting passengers.
These rights are protected and regulated by Law No. 358-05, the Consumer Rights Protection Act.
Authorities have the power to regulate fees according to air transport treaties to which the country is a signatory, which act as a protection mechanism for passenger in such matters.
The Dominican Republic is signatory to the Warsaw Convention, which limits air carrier liability in connection with an accident causing injury or death to passengers. It also limits liability when loss or damage to baggage occurs.
LAC provides that any air operator shall contract an insurance policy or auto-insurance plan. The term of an operation licence depends on fulfilment of this obligation.
The amount and cover of the insurance policy must be in accordance with the guidelines in the Montreal Convention 1999.
Law No. 188-11 is the legal framework on which civil aviation security is based. These legal guidelines are based on provisions included in appendix 17 of the Chicago Convention.
The main object of this law is to prevent and sanction the actions and unlawful interference against passengers, crew, ground staff and public security. Aviation infrastructure services are included, as well as aircraft, airports and aerodromes.
This law reinforces and raises the legal status of CESAC, which has the responsibility to prepare, apply and enforce the national security programme.
Crimes and offences related to aviation are included and sanctioned by Law No. 188-11. Within more serious crimes are included:
- hijacking by violence and intimidation;
- taking an aircraft hostage and hijacking;
- intentional total or partial destruction of an aircraft, airport or communications equipment that causes death and serious injury; and
- spreading false information to jeopardise aviation, passenger and crew security at an airport or civil aviation installation and causing serious injury or death.
Other actions are defined as less serious offences and infringements, but may also result in penal sanctions, including imprisonment.
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.