Is there a chance you’ve traveled from Log Angeles to New York through a Canada aircraft, or moved from Geneva to Lausanne by a French-owned aircraft. These instances are impossible if the flight doesn’t have Cabotage rights. Cabotage is the right of an aircraft to operate a domestic flight (within the border of a country) by a company from another country.

The word ‘Cabotage’ was derived from French word Cabot which means to travel by coast. The word was originated from the maritime industry.

When it comes to shipping, the word cabotage is mostly used as the right to transport passengers and goods from one part of the country to another, through a ship from overseas. In the 18th century, the mobility of merchants increases thereby giving them the power to sell their goods at the ports of another country. This thus reduced the influence of domestic markets and rules were therefore enacted.

The same thing happened to the air law in 1930 which was later Executed in the Chicago Convention in 1944. With this, aircrafts within a country need the right to fly with the domestic border of a country. However, most countries do not encourage aviation cabotage.


The nature of the private charter aircraft is the high level of flexibility in their routes. They are able to fly around a country, within different states and countries, no matter its home base.

With many private flights one-way, multi-leg, or open jaws, an aircraft will, therefore, be available for its next charter at different places just like a taxi on the ground.

With this, aircraft registered in one state or country can end up in another and vice versa. The aircraft operator will also try to sell a flight at his location in order to improve efficiency and reduce empty flights.

The aircraft operator will be careful not to accept an hire for a new flight unless he/she can claim the cabotage rights. He can only accept a charter when there is an exemption from the conditions below.

Exemptions to the Cabotage Rights

On a normal route that prohibit cabotage, there are exemptions. The operator partakes in “connecting domestic flights” within a state or country in the following conditions.

  1. The number of passengers must be the same during the entire flight.
  2. The passenger must be in the connecting flight at the same day.
  3. Passengers are not allowed to leave the airport.


New Zealand and Australia have the same free trade agreement, therefore, allowing them to operate domestic flights within their borders.

Chile has a very liberal cabotage rule, it allows operators and foreign airliners to be able to operate a domestic flight in the country.


Flying from Lyon to Paris with Lufthansa, or flying from Milan to Rome might be confusing sometimes, this is because Europe is a global notable exemption to the Cabotage restrictions. They serve as a single state when it comes to aviation rules.

The EU has also extended the cabotage rights to it member states in the interest of free trade. Europe is then considered as a single state when it comes to Cabotage.


Cabotage can be very complex at times. It is important to know your flight routes and ensure it is permitted for your aircraft. Top of Form

Disclaimer: All Aircraft And Air Carriers Selected By West Palm Jets are fully Certified by The Federal Aviation Administration and The U.S. Department of Transportation under part 135 regulations. Carriers are Solely Responsible for The Air Transportation Arranged on Behalf Of West Palm Jets’ Clients. West Palm Jets Does not OWN or Operate Any Aircraft. West Palm Jets is not a direct or indirect Air carrier. All flights chartered through West Palm Jets are Operated by Part 135 Air Carriers.

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