In an era of private jet flights, the term “cabotage” may seem antiquated, but it is still a crucial legal concept. Cabotage refers to the transport of cargo or passengers from one destination to another, for a fee, within the same country.

The term originated in France, and once meant domestic trade or transport along a coastline. It has since evolved to include any domestic rail, air, ship and road transport. 

In private aviation, the term applies to any type of aircraft that flies passengers by jet charter or hire from one point to another. While flying as a charter airplane, the aircraft must adhere to the rules and laws for private jet flights within that given country. These rules not only apply to specific operational requirements for the aircraft, but also to any passengers flying aboard the jet charter.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) monitors and enforces cabotage. Charter flight operators must notify Border Protection of crew and passenger information for each leg of a flight in the U.S. Once CBP reviews the information, and if there are no cabotage violations, CBP will issue a “permit to proceed” for the next leg of the flight.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to choose a trusted flight broker to ensure that the aircraft you charter adheres to all cabotage guidelines for travel in your respective country. For example, ARGUS- and Wyvern-rated aircraft operators who charter private jets and airplanes will adhere to cabotage rules for private flight charters within the United States.