Aerlex Law Group

Planning Ahead for Aircraft Charter

Planning Ahead for Aircraft Charter — Originally published in BusinessAir Magazine, August 2013, Volume 23, No. 8.

Many individuals use on-demand air travel (charter) for personal or business use when their own aircraft is for sale, sold, on-order, down for repair or otherwise unavailable for use. Identifying a safe, reliable, experienced charter company from the many options available is very important.

Having been in the business aviation industry for over a decade, I am often asked my opinion of a specific charter provider. Often, I am asked about companies that are unfamiliar to me. In fact, there are over 2,500 charter operators in the United States. In addition to the 2,500 charter operators, there are also charter brokers. A charter broker is an individual or a company that connects charter customers and charter operators. The charter broker does not own or operate the aircraft. Unlike charter operators, charter brokers are not regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). However, charter brokers are required by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to clarify to the consumer that they are not FAA-certified charter operators and that they work only at the request of either the customer or the operator.

Every charter operator is assigned to an FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) that oversees its Part 135 certificate. Some charter companies specialize in a certain route and aircraft type, while others fly all over the world. Just as you should not select an aircraft management company based solely on who your friends use, you should also not select a charter company based simply on someone’s recommendation: one person’s perfect charter company is often not the perfect charter company for another person. The best approach to finding a charter company is to pre-approve several companies in advance so that when a flight is needed, you already have your go-to companies selected.

To choose your preferred charter companies, you should consider the following:

1. Aircraft Maintenance. Who handles maintenance? Under which program are the aircraft maintained? What happens when a mechanical issue occurs on a scheduled trip?

2. Experience. How long has the operator had their certificate and is aviation their primary business? Has the operator’s aircraft ever been involved in any accidents or incidents? Has the FAA ever taken any enforcement actions against the operator or any of its crew members? What are the crew flight hour minimums? What are the crew training requirements?

3. Aircraft. What type of aircraft are on the certificate? What years were the aircraft manufactured and have they had any major refurbishments? If you require Wifi, make sure in advance that it is available.

4. Insurance. What types of coverage does the operator maintain and what are the limits?

5. Service. Does the company have the same culture as your company? Does the level of service meet your standards? Is there a service training program and a service standard measurement in place?

Flying on your own aircraft with a crew that you hire or with a management team that you have selected can be very different than flying charter. Spending time on the pre-approval process is crucial so that the charter consumer does not make a rushed last-minute decision the night before a flight is needed. Asking the right questions now and having a pre-approved list of well-qualified charter providers in advance will ensure that you do not compromise the safety, comfort, quality and dependability of your charter flights.

Please contact Amanda Applegate at 877-237-5398 or