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

Image: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File
Image: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File

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 Organization.


As Wendover Productions explains in his most recent video, the ICAO is recognized by almost every developed nation on Earth, and the organization’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 $56.86 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 airlines’ search to find the cheapest route.

Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// bgmwrites@gmail.com Keybase: keybase.io/bryangm Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/

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Tried to comprehend this but it flew way over my head.