Aviation Risk Management


Commercial Air Travel Safety Unit

The Commercial Air Travel Safety Unit (CATSU)  provides the members of the UN Security Management System (UNSMS) with information and guidance regarding the suitability of air operators for use worldwide. The guidance from the CATSU is provided through the Division of Specialized Operational Support (DSOS) within the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS).

What you need to know when travelling?

Staff working within the UN System serves in some of the most challenging environments in the world,. Each duty station may pose different risks with regard to air transport.
The revised UN Security Management System (UNSMS) Commercial Air Travel Safety Policy  provides a system-wide framework that considers aviation safety factors for the selection of commercial air operators, which applies to all UN staff on official travel. As UN  staff, you are beneficiaries of the comprehensive work conducted by UNDSS CATSU. 
As an International Civil Servants, through your respective UN entity, you are expected to comply to the staff rules from your respective organisation, , complete required security training, obtain a security clearance through this Travel Request Information Processing (TRIP) system, and comply with the  airlines' safety requirements and briefings. 

It is HIGHLY encouraged to:

  • Print and pack the UNDSS Travel Advisory, for the country of travel.  This contains the contacts of security professionals in-country, in case of emergency.
  • Download the eTA app to your phone ( This app will push critical safety and security notifications directly to your phone.

Commercial Air Travel Safety Policy

Click HERE to to download the policy. According to the Commercial Air Travel Safety Policy, all personnel are expected to:

Comply with your respective organization’s travel policy and airline selection.

  • In order for your travel to be approved and processed, you should know the requirements for booking your travel. Your agency will ensure that your arrangements meet safety and security requirements.

Have questions related to air travel?
Contact your Organization’s Air Travel Focal Point (ATFP). Click HERE for list.


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Air Operator Risk
Policy & Procedures


Q: What is the UNDSS Commercial Air Travel Safety Unit (CATSU) ? 
Answer: Formerly known as the Aviation Risk Management Office (ARMO), CATSU is an office within the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) that assists UNDSS in meeting its mandate " to enable the conduct of UN activities while observing the safety, security & well-being of personnel” as it relates to air travel.

The CATSU serves as a central repository of commercial aviation safety information, providing aviation safety information and advice to entities within the entire UN System. 


Q. Can a staff member travel by road if they are concerned with the safety of an airline?  
Answer: This may be allowed if the supervisor reviews to validate the concern and agrees to the deviation. Please check with your supervisor for further guidance. 

Q. If an airline is banned in Europe is it ‘banned’ for UN staff travel too? 
Answer: No. The UN does NOT ban airlines. The European Union (EU) has an EU Safety List, which is issued as a travel advisory to EU citizens. The list identifies air operators that are not authorized to operate within the 32 EU Member States.

Q. There is a threat related to travel on social media which is creating anxiety. What should I know or who should I call to ask for advice?
Answer: All users of global communication channels and social media should recognize that messages may not be vetted for accuracy. Individual and organizational reaction to these messages should be reasoned and aligned with facts. 

UNDSS does not provide authentication of - or -comment on threats made through public networks. Should specific guidance be warranted, a message will be issued globally. You may check with your supervisor and/or air travel focal point for information or guidance.

Q. Is the approval of TRIP security clearances associated with the air operator used to enter the country?
Answer: No. The approval of TRIP security clearance is not be linked to the use of any commercial air operator.  

Q. There has been an aircraft incident/ accident with no fatalities. How do we know if that air operator is safe?
Answer:   It is understandable that concern exists whenever an aircraft is forced to deviate or has an unexpected event, regardless of the reason. The first consideration must be given to the experience and expertise demonstrated by the flight crew, who should be able to safely land the aircraft and evacuate passengers, as expected.

As benefitaries of the work from UNDSS, your organization will book flights that have been assessed by CATSU.

Q. Do airlines and airports conduct risk assessments?
Answer: Yes. Airlines and airports, usually, have their own enterprise risk management processes. This is in addition to any risk management processes required by their oversight authority. It is the ultimate responsibility of the airline to protect its personnel and assets, which require them to have risk management policy and procedures.  

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Q. When non-UN entities (NGOs, foreign governments, etc) ask for UN travel information, how should they be directed?
Answer: Information deriving from UNDSS is not to be shared outside of the UN and advised accordingly.  

Non-UN entities acting as implementing partners may ask their UN host organization for guidance or recommendation for the use of specific air operators, but UNDSS air operator information must not be provided. 

Q. What happens and what should I know when there’s an aircraft accident?
Answer: It is understandable that concern exists whenever there is an unexpected and/or traumatic aviation event, regardless of the reason. 

Inquiries and speculation will begin the moment a flight becomes non-routine; and, once elevated to public media, there could be many scenarios. There are established investigative processes for aviation accidents in line with global aviation safety standards that must take place.

 The victims and their families deserve to get an accurate account of what has happened. A complete investigation by the appropriate accident investigation authorities, following the established process, must be conducted to determine the cause and where the failure in the system occurred. This may take a year or more. Questions that must be considered include:

 -Did a failure occur at airport security where the flight originated?
 - Was the failure related to airline operations?
 - Did the aircraft itself experience a failure?
 - Was there a failure through the actions of a flight crew member?
 - Was there a failure through the actions of a passenger?
 - Was the airline a target for terrorism?
 - Was a specific passenger or crew member a target?
 - Was the airport of destination a target?
 - Was the country of destination a target?

NOTE: An airport that is involved or closely located to an aviation accident investigation staging area may be a very busy place. Organizations may decide to re-route/re-book existing travelers, with connecting flights, through this airport to avoid the distraction. Please note that the decision whether to re-route may not be related to safety or security. 

Q. Does the UNDSS CATSU work on aviation security issues (airports, airline, airfield, etc)?
Answer: No, aviation security (Avsec) is not a mandate for UNDSS..  

Q: What other UN Organizations support Aviation within the United Nations?
Answer: There are four (4) entities that focus on aviation in the UN System:

1. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency that works with their 191 Member States and other organizations to develop international Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) which are then used by States to develop their legally-binding national civil aviation regulations. ICAO’s policy and capacity-building efforts enables today’s global air transport network to operate over 100,000 daily flights, safely, efficiently and securely, in every region of the world.

2. Managed by WFP Aviation, the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) provides efficient and reliable air services to the entire humanitarian community. UNHAS is serving some of the world’s most remote and insecure locations to facilitate the implementation and monitoring of humanitarian interventions. With regular operations in 13 countries, UNHAS has become the primary means of air transport for the global humanitarian community. (WFP Aviation, typically, refrences aviation services used to provide cargo services.)

3. The Air Transport Section in the Logistics Support Division of the Department of Operational Support (DOS) is responsible for managing its air fleet, providing advice and technical, as well as policy, procedures and guidance for implementing air operations to missions. The Section has responsibility for implementing the integrated peacekeeping aviation strategy and equipping United Nations field missions with aviation assets, qualified personnel and providing for full management oversight.

4. The Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), Commercial Air Travel Safety Unit (CATSU) (UN Secretariat) supports the UNSMS Commercial Air Travel Safety Policy by considering aviation safety factors in the use of commercial air operators and donated flights for official travel. CATSU serves as a central repository of commercial aviation safety information on behalf of the United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS). 

Q: Does CATSU provide advice on how to charter aircraft?
Answer: No. "Chartering" is a procurement function by which money is exchanged for sole use of an entire aircraft on a user defined route(s). 

The procurement function of chartering aircraft is outside of the remit for CATSU. 
WFP Air Transport and/or DOS Air Transport Sections may be able to provide more information or guidance though their work with charter operators. 

Q: What is the difference between Chartered flight and Donated flight?
Answer: A Chartered flight involves an exchange of money; a procurement function, whereby the entire aircraft and all seats are designated for the sole use of the contracting organisation to travel to a specific location at a specific time.

Donated flights provide passenger(s) a seat on an aircraft at no cost. There is  no exchange of money and no procurement contract. 

Q: Should we reference or be concerned by airline rankings of other sources online?
Answer: It's not necessary, but not prohibited. Most sources are providing ranking for the largest airlines in accordance to their overall and relative safety in comparison to their peers. This has to be looked at as a very small (tiny) sample size compared to the entire industry. 

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Q: Is the Malicious Acts Insurance Policy (MAIP) tied to TRIP and the security clearance ? 
Answer: Yes, somewhat. The MIAP requires UN personnel to be in compliance with the prevailing security guidelines and procedures in order for coverage to apply.  It further indicates that coverage would apply if the non-compliance was inadvertent on the part of the insured concerned.

In an event triggering the MAIP, UNDSS determines whether or not a staff member is in compliance with the prevailing security guidelines and procedures. 

Q: If a staff member has concerns regarding a particular airline’s safety, how can be confirmed? 
Answer:  Please redirect all your questions to ATFP. ATFP’s will have access to specific information to consult and should be the only ones to provide this type of advice.  

Q: What is the next step if a staff member refuses to undertake the mission due to safety concerns of a particular air operator?
Answer: The staff member must elevate their concern to their supervisor and/or the assigned Air Travel Focal Point (ATFP) for their organization. Their organization should have specific guidance/policy that relates to a staff member refusing to fly on a specific air operator. ATFP's should have the most up-to-date information on air operators and travel-related policies.  

Note: UN staff are beneficiaries of the work from UNDSS and CATSU. 

Q: How can we tell if there are concerns with the safety of air operators who fly in areas of conflict?
Answer: Most air operators with continuing schedules to service routes in areas of conflict have operational experience in that area.

It is expected that the airline will cancel, suspend or delay flights should their internal enterprise risk model indicate there is known risk to their airline. 

Q. In the case of life-threatening situations, security evacuation, and/or medical evacuations, who approves the use of an airline as a means of exit? 
Answer:  In these cases, UNDSS will provide all necessary information directly to the country of concern. In-country, the Designated Official (DO) can authorize the use of any air operator. 

Q. What is an Air Travel Focal Point (ATFP) and their role?
Answer: The ATFP is the assigned individual(s), acting as the representative(s) of their UNSMS organization, who is (are) primarily responsible for responding to questions relating to air travel in accordance with the policy and guidelines of his or her organization.

The role of the Air Travel Focal Point (ATFP) best facilitates the downstream of communication by harmonizing, coordinating and implementing CATSU initiatives aimed at enhancing safety for travelling UN Personnel.

The ATFP has direct access to CATSU for assistance. 

Q. We have two insurance, the MAIP and Appendix D, do UN staff members get both coverage in case of an aircraft accident?
Answer: Yes, these are two separate insurance programs administered by the UN. A staff member may be in a position where both apply. 

Q. What happens if the destination becomes too unsafe for travel?
Answer: Safety-focused air operators have their own enterprise risk model in which to assess the safety of their flights. It would be expected that an air operator will cancel a flight(s) if the ground situation was deemed too risky to protect the integrity of the flight, their resources or their crew and passengers. 

Q. Do UN staff members in the field need to be provided with the Recommended Air Operators List? 
Answer:  UN personnel are beneficiaries of the work of the UNDSS CATSU. If a UN travel unit booked and ticketed a flight, then the air operator was assessed. All air travel questions should be directed to the appropriate Air Travel Focal Point assigned by their UNSMS organization. 

Q. I have a security role in county.  UN staff are asking for an updated list of air operators, assessed by UNDSS,  in my country. How do I get this list and other reports?
Answer: This is not the role for the security professional. Under the UNSMS Commercial Air Travel Safety  Policy, agencies have authorized and assigned Air Travel Focal Points (ATFPs) that are to provide this information directly to their own organization. 

Please advise requesting staff to contact their Air Travel Focal Point (ATFP). They need to receive this information directly from their organization. A list of  ATFP's can be found on UNSMIN in 3 ways listed below
UNSMIN > Library > Aviation
UNSMIN > People Finder > Security Title/Role > Air Travel Focal Point
UNSMIN > Aviation

Q. As a UNDSS senior security professional, do I have access to all the information that UNSMS-assigned Air Travel Focal Points (ATFPs) have?
Answer: Yes. UNDSS senior security professionals are the communication link between DO and CATSU in the field. They are responsible for conveying advice and guidance to the DO and SMT on policy. Any other questions by the UNDSS senior security professional must be directed to the relevant ATFP’s for UNSMS entity. 

Q. What is the source of air operator information and often used air operators?
Answer: All air operator information is evidence-based and comes from official subscription-based sources, following industry standards and best practices.

Q. I have a question/concern related to a local air operator &/or an issue relating to aviation safety. To whom should I address my question/ concern?
Answer: Please send your question/concern to your organization's Air Travel Focal Point (ATFP) and/or the senior Security Professional in the designated area. (The senior Security Professional is usually the Chief Security Advisor (CSA) or other Security Advisor (SA), or their officer-in-charge ad interim.)  

Q. Can the decision regarding the use of an air operator by one UN Organisation, in country, be used by other UN Organisations? Is it considered approved for use by all UN Organizations too?
Answer: No. UNDSS CATSU provides consistent information to the entire UNSMS.  CATSU does not change its information based on an Agency's determination for use.

UN Agencies determine the suitability of an air operator as it relates to their specific programme activities and programme criticality.  This is an individual Agency decision and should include internal processes that address any restrictions or authorization required. 

Contact the Air Travel Focal Point for your specific organization for information on a specific air operator.

Q. Who is the appropriate security professional to contact, in the field, for aviation/ air safety questions?
Answer: The Security Professional is the senior-most security professional directly supporting the Designated Official. This is usually the Chief Security Advisor (CSA) or other Security Advisor (SA), or their officer-in-charge ad interim.