When You Fly Over a Foreign Country, Your Aeroplane Owes Rent

By Bryan Menegus on at

Ever wonder how commercial flights are allowed to pass over and through many different sovereign nations without causing a fuss? You can thank the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

As Wendover Productions explains in his most recent video, the ICAO is recognised by almost every developed nation on Earth, and the organisation’s five fundamental rights of aviation are the governing principles that keep air travel safe and conflict-free. Most are pretty intuitive, like the right to land in order to refuel or repair etc.

The oddity? Planes flying over a foreign country owe a fee to the nation below them. 'Overflight fees', as they're called, are a cost exacted on planes for use of air traffic control services and vary from country to country. For the US, that comes to about £46.80 per 100 nautical miles over much of American airspace. (And, as Wendover points out, US airspace is much, much bigger than the actual landmass of the United States.) As a result, overflight fees can alter whole flight paths in an airlines’ search to find the cheapest route.