Consultation on the requirement to hold a licence

The Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) is requesting comments from the aviation industry and other interested stakeholders on whether persons who have commercial control over an air service, but do not operate aircraft (Indirect Air Service Providers), should be required to hold a licence.


The Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) regulates the licensing of air transportation pursuant to Part II of the Canada Transportation Act (Act) and the Air Transportation Regulations.

The Act requires that persons hold the appropriate licence before they can operate a publicly available air transportation service (air service), which subjects these persons to a number of economic, consumer and industry protection safeguards, including with respect to tariffs, financial requirements, and Canadian ownership. When more than one person is involved in the delivery of the air service, it is important to determine who is operating the air service and is required, as such, to comply with the licensing requirements.

When the National Transportation Act, 1987 (subsequently consolidated and revised by the Act) was introduced in 1987, it ushered in the deregulation of the aviation industry. At this time, the distinction between chartered and scheduled air carriers was eliminated for domestic air services. Industry subsequently developed new and innovative approaches to the delivery of air services that did not always fit into the Act's licensing parameters. One such approach is the Indirect Air Service Provider model, where persons have commercial control over an air service and make decisions on matters such as on routes, scheduling, pricing, and aircraft to be used, while charter air carriers operate flights on their behalf.

The Agency's current approach to determining which person is operating a domestic air service originated from its 1996 Greyhound Decision and requires the person with commercial control to hold the licence, irrespective of whether the person operates any aircraft. As of December 1, 2015, 16 persons that did not operate any aircraft held licences providing them the authority to operate domestic air services.

For international air services, the Regulations require the air carrier, not the charterer, to hold a licence. Consequently, under the current approach, a person who is in commercial control of an air service and does not operate aircraft must hold the licence for domestic, but not for international air services.

All licensed air carriers are required to hold a Canadian Aviation Document (CAD) issued by the Minister of Transport. When a person does not operate any aircraft, they are neither required nor entitled to obtain a CAD. The Agency has issued domestic licences to Indirect Air Service Providers on the basis that the CAD requirement is met by the charter air carrier.

The Agency, after careful review and study, is considering a change in its approach to determining who is operating an air service in situations where a person has commercial control over an air service, but does not operate aircraft. It is important to note that a review of the Act is underway and may recommend changes to the legislative framework. Regulatory reforms may also be contemplated.

Approach under consideration

Indirect Air Service Providers would not normally be required to hold a licence to sell air services directly to the public, as long as they charter licenced air carriers to operate the flights. This would apply to the operation of domestic and international air services. As these providers would not be subject to the licensing requirements, contracts they enter into with the public would not be subject to tariff protection, nor would they be subject to the financial and Canadian ownership requirements.

However, the Agency would preserve its discretion to apply legislative and regulatory requirements in a purposive manner to ensure that the objectives underpinning the air licensing regime continue to be met. Accordingly, should a person who does not operate aircraft hold themselves out to the public as an air carrier and not a charterer or structure their business model to circumvent the licensing requirements, the Agency could determine that they are operating the air service. Considerations in any such determination could include the manner in which they hold themselves out to the public, whether their involvement goes beyond a typical contractual charter arrangement, and the extent to which their operations are integrated into those of the air carrier.

When an air service is marketed and sold by an air carrier that has commercial control and the flights are operated by another air carrier, pursuant to a wet lease, code share, blocked space, capacity purchase agreement or other similar agreement, the Agency will continue to require the air carrier in commercial control to hold the licence for that air service, consistent with existing regulatory requirements.

Call for comments

The Agency invites interested stakeholders to submit their comments on the Agency's proposed approach, including with respect to the following questions:

  • Whether Indirect Air Service Providers should be required to hold a licence to sell their services directly to the public, in their own right. Provide a clear explanation for your position;
  • What criteria the Agency should consider in determining whether an Indirect Air Service Provider is holding itself out as an air carrier, and therefore, should be required to hold the licence; and
  • What regulatory amendments, if any, should be contemplated to clarify who is operating an air service and is required, as such, to hold a licence.

Participants may submit written comments no later than the end of the business day on January 22, 2016.

All submissions made as part of this consultation process will be considered public documents and, as such, may be posted on the Agency's website.


Friday, January 22, 2016
Deadline for submissions
Date modified: