Singapore has stepped up its scrutiny of foreign carriers to ensure safe skies, as passenger and flight numbers continue to rise.
All airlines flying here must now have an operating permit issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), The Straits Times has learnt.
Previously, foreign carriers could fly here as long as they were licensed by their respective civil aviation authorities.
The new rule, which took effect last year, requires airlines to submit detailed information on their operations, including aircraft maintenance procedures and pilot training programmes.
They must also provide aircraft-specific data for the fleet they intend to operate to Singapore, such as age and whether the planes have been involved in any incidents.
Once approved, the flying permit is valid for up to five years for carriers such as Emirates and British Airways that operate scheduled flights, and up to a year for non-scheduled operators, such as those that provide charter and medical flights.
To date, the CAAS has issued permits to 90 foreign carriers that operate scheduled flights and 126 operators of non-scheduled services, said its director for airworthiness and flight operations Tan Kah Han.
Before the policy change, only local carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Tigerair and Jetstar Asia had to apply for a flying permit.
All foreign carriers were allowed in based on the principle that it is the responsibility of all 191 member states of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) - a United Nations arm that regulates the industry - to ensure that their airlines are regulated in line with ICAO safety and other requirements.
CAAS' foreign carrier surveillance programme and the tighter checks introduced allow the authority "to better assess the safety risks of foreign carriers operating to Singapore", Mr Tan said.
In considering the applications, the authority takes into account various factors including the safety oversight capability of the country where the foreign carrier is registered, the operational capability of the carrier and the safety records of the aircraft type to be deployed to Singapore, he said.
"We also take into consideration safety information from other aviation authorities including the outcomes of inspections and audits that they conduct," Mr Tan said.
Once the permit is granted to a foreign carrier, periodic inspections are done when they fly here, he added.
If there are safety concerns, flights can and have been grounded until the issues are sorted out, he said, noting however that such cases are rare.
Jacques Astre, president of consultancy firm International Aviation Safety Solutions, said a growing number of states and authorities, including the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States and European Aviation Safety Agency, have programmes in place to monitor foreign carriers in their air space.
He said: "Singapore is moving in the right direction by fulfilling its obligations and protecting its citizens flying on those foreign aircraft."