Why Airplanes Pay Rent When they Fly Over Foreign Countries

Why Airplanes Pay Rent When they Fly Over Foreign Countries

Commercial aviation has made the globe a much smaller place. Every day over 100,000 commercial airplanes criss-cross the globe. In the United States alone, some 42,000 flights carrying 2.5 million airline passengers take off and land each and every day.

With all this travel, you might expect traffic jams and conflict over rights of way. That there isn’t is a debt to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a standards organization for the airline industry that keeps air travel safe and conflict-free. The ICAO has 192 member nations — that’s every country in the world except for three, and two of those three aren’t served by international air carriers. At the organization’s founding in Chicago in 1944, the ICAO drafted their Five Freedoms of the Air, which forms the backbone of all international aviation agreements.

Overflight Fees and the Five Freedoms of the Air

It’s the first “freedom of the air,” the right to fly over a foreign country without landing, that we will be discussing today.

A country’s airspace is sovereign, but for international aviation to be possible, ICAO nations grant all approved international air carriers the right to fly through their airspace without landing. To do so, they must pay overflight fees.Overflight fees are nearly universal. The United States, for instance, charges $56.86 per 100 nautical miles.

That may seem like a small charge, but the airspace of the United States is much, much larger than its geographic size. Our airspace is so large, in fact, that airlines flying from Australia to Japan and other east Asian destinations must pass through our airspace and pay our overflight fees.

Canadian overflight fees are notoriously expensive. To get to Europe, almost all air carriers flying from the United States to Europe have to pass through Canadian airspace. So expensive are foreign overflight fees that air carriers invest in extremely advanced software that calculates the cheapest routes depending on the aircraft’s weight, the weather conditions, and the overflight fee options.

To learn the rest of the five freedoms of the air, check out the video below.

The Five Freedoms of the Air

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