Safety is an essential element in aviation, which is why airlines and carriers wanting to fly in and out of Switzerland require an operating licence. In addition, FOCA inspectors carry out spot checks on foreign aircraft. Airlines deemed unsafe by the EU are not permitted to fly to Switzerland either.
All foreign airlines wishing to operate flights to and from Switzerland require a licence issued by the Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA). A licence will be issued if the airline concerned is able to provide evidence that it complies with the applicable operational and technical requirements (i.e. the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO), and that the authorities of the country of origin carry out effective supervision of the airline. In other words, the safety of the airline has to be assured. In addition, the airline must possess adequate insurance cover. The Federal Office for Civil Aviation normally issues operating licences to foreign airlines for a period of five years. If an airline only carries out occasional flights, the FOCA will issue a single permit for each operation.
Inspectors of the FOCA carry out random checks at Swiss airports in order to determine whether foreign airlines comply with the applicable standards. These inspections take place within the scope of the European SAFA (= Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) programme, but they do not take the form of comprehensive tests. Supervisory activities including in-depth inspections and audits are the responsibility of the civil aviation authorities in the country of origin of an airline. However, if it has doubts as to whether an airline truly meets the applicable standards, the FOCA may withdraw existing licences.
Airlines that have been refused permission to fly to and from EU or EFTA member* states and apply for new landing rights in Switzerland will not receive a licence from the FOCA.
* 28 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland