What is Economic Authority?

If you want to start or operate a company that provides air transportation of passengers and/or cargo you will need to apply for and receive two forms of authorization. Economic Authority issued by the Department of Transportation and Safety Authority issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. Economic authority is issued in the form of a certificate for interstate or foreign passenger and/or cargo authority issued under section 41102 of the Statute while safety authority is issued in the form of an air carrier certificate and operation specifications.

Air carrier applicants must file their application through the public docket and they may be filed electronically online at www.regulations.gov. Separate applications are required to obtain interstate authority and foreign authority. Assistance in filing electronically may be obtained by contacting the DOT Docket Management Office at (202) 366-9826. Applications can also be hand-delivered or filed my mail. 

The DOT Docket Management Office physical address is:

U.S. DOT Docket Management
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
West Building Ground Floor
Room W12-140
Washington, D.C. 20590

Filing fee payments must be made electronically at www.pay.gov.

Once the application is received by the DOT it is forwarded to the Air Carrier Fitness Division (AFS 260) for evaluation. The first determination they make is to ensure that the company is owned and controlled by US Citizens as defined by regulation 49 U.S.C. 40102 (a)(15).

Next they make a determination of whether the applicant is “fit, willing, and able” to conduct commercial airline operations. This fitness test consists of three components.

  1. the managerial competence of the applicant’s key personnel
  2. the applicant’s operating and financial plans, and
  3. the applicant’s compliance record

After receiving initial authorization for economic authority, the air carrier is subject to the requirements of 49 U.S.C. 41110(e) which says that the company must remain fit in order to continue to hold its authority to provide air transportation services. AFS 260 will periodically assess the company’s fitness.

On-Demand carriers that operate small aircraft as defined by the DOT, may file for an exemption from the fitness test.

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