Need to know: nav fees Pt.1
When flying internationally, you’ll usually be paying air navigation fees (“nav fees”) to some country or group of countries. While these costs vary depending on where you are in the world, some regions can be particularly expensive. Being aware of applicable nav fees, and payment processes, is always an important part of international trip planning. Universal Weather & Aviation Trip Cost Estimator Fred Quinonez has been in the aviation industry almost 24 years and is an expert at estimating general aviation trip costs. He tells you what you need to know.
Nav fees are usually based on where you fly, the distance you fly within a country, the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) and/or wingspan of the aircraft and time of year or day. There are often somewhat unique methods of calculation and pricing to consider when determining nav fees due. In Mexico, for example, you must use the routing distance as published on an online chart, rather than simply applying great circle distance.
Almost all countries charge nav fees
While virtually all countries collect nav fees for use of their airspace, the cost of these fees, and the manner in which they’re collected, varies. The US, for example, won’t charge navigation fees until you reach a certain volume of airspace usage each month. So, operators who do not frequent US airspace may not generate any nav charges. China and Russia, on the other hand, assess nav fees for all entries into their airspace, and these fees can be expensive. For example, a flight from Anchorage to Narita, Tokyo operating through Russian airspace will likely incur nav charges of $1200 for Russia and $1800 for terminal nav aids, depending on the actual distance flown in appropriate airspace.
Nav fee regulations and charges
Depending upon where you’re operating it can be somewhat tricky keeping track of regulations and charges for nav fees. In some regions, including Eurocontrol airspace, nav fee data is published online and there’s an online calculator available to operators. Other regions, however, don’t publish nav fee information, and you may have to contact a local entity directly to obtain this. Some countries publish nav fee schedules in their Aeronautical Information Publications (AIPs), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) maintains a list of nav fees worldwide (and they sell this information). In some parts of Asia and Africa, however, it may be difficult to obtain nav fee data, and you may have issues with communications and language barriers.
Nav fee updates
Nav fee schedules may be frequently updated in certain cases. In most cases fees are updated and increased on an annual or biannual basis. Some countries/regions, however, may update their nav fees monthly. Note that, from time to time, certain countries may add additional categories to nav fee schedules. Cuba, for example, used to have just three categories for nav fees but now has six categories. As published nav fee information for a particular country may be outdated or incorrect it’s prudent to double-check applicable nav fees and payment requirements in advance.
High cost nav fees
In some regions of the world – including China, Russia and Canada – nav fees are particularly expensive. Some operators plan routes of flight to avoid these high nav fee areas. On a flight from the US west coast to Japan, for example, you may want to avoid overflying Russian airspace. When transiting up/down the west coast of Africa some operators prefer to fly offshore, over international waters, to avoid/limit nav fee costs. We know of operators who avoid Canadian airspace, on operations from the US west coast to Asia, to avoid charges from using their airspace.
Third-party providers can assist
Some operators prefer to settle nav fees directly while others prefer to have their third-party provider handle these payments. As some countries, including Mexico, have rather complex payment routines for nav fees, it’s usually best to have a 3rd-party provider take care of this for you.
Be aware of assorted complexities that exist within the world of nav fees and nav fee collection. Understand that it may, at times, be difficult to obtain nav fee charge schedules for certain locations and that nav fees may change without necessarily being published. Methods of payment are more complex in some regions, so this must also be researched.