When booking your private jet flight, not only should you consider the type of aircraft you’d like to charter, but whether to book directly with an operator or through a broker, explains LEA’s Patrick Margetson-Rushmore. But why does it matter…?
A charter broker is an individual or company that coordinates charter flights for clients via charter operators. Brokers do not operate flights, but act as the ‘middle man’ and liaise with operators, charging a fee for their service.
Despite the extra fee, there is rarely much of a difference in price when compared to booking direct with an operator because brokers can negotiate the charter price down on your behalf. Brokers have the flexibility to deal with a variety of operators and therefore have access to a huge number of aircraft.
Charter operators own or manage the aircraft they fly, so they know the fleet inside out; can offer a consistent set of services; and control the safety and operation of the flight. While an operator will only have a certain number of aircraft, if they are part of a larger group they can access the fleets of their sister companies. E.g., LEA is part of the Luxaviation Group, offering access to 250 aircraft worldwide.
So which option should you choose, and what should you look out for when booking your charter flight?
Brokers can be a good choice for travellers who fly from a variety of different cities and countries as they can research the charter options in each location you need to travel from/to. As your needs will change depending on your journey (booking direct with an operator does restrict you to the types of aircraft in their fleet) the broker’s access to a wide range of aircraft is advantageous.
But what are the key questions to ask a broker?
- When searching for a charter broker, it is important to do your research. The industry is not regulated and no licensing is required to become a broker. Some brokers do opt to be audited by a third party such as the ARGUS or Wyvern, so this is worth checking.
- Look at how many years the broker has been in business. Experience is important.
- The broker should have a good knowledge of the aircraft available on the market, and be able to vet the safety of operators.
- Check if they work only with operators they know, and with whom they have a past working history.
- Ask for references from other clients.
- Finally, ask for a contract before any deals are agreed.
When choosing a charter operator, it’s still important to do your research, although your questions will be slightly different.
Having direct communication with the company that’s operating your flight can be an obvious advantage; by booking with a charter operator you will have the opportunity to develop a good relationship over time. Travelling by private aircraft is a highly personalized, bespoke service and this extends to the relationship clients have with the pilots and cabin crew who are taking care of them during the trip.
Clients who travel regularly may wish to book with the same operator every time to ensure they travel in the same aircraft with the same crew, who will become attuned to their personal preferences.
- When choosing a charter operator, check out their safety record. All operators must have an Air Operator’s Certificate to operate an aircraft commercially, and therefore operate to rigorous safety standards. Ensure the operator has a strong safety record by checking their audit history. This can easily be done by contacting third-party auditors such as ARGUS, Wyvern, IS-BAO and ACSF.
- It is also worth checking what relationship the operator has with other companies, and whether they share information with other operators, to ensure you have access to a wider range of options.
- Ask for references from other clients.
Ultimately, there are benefits to working with charter brokers, just as there are benefits to working directly with operators. Which option you choose largely depends on your circumstances and individual needs. However, by asking the right questions and doing your research, you can be sure of having an excellent experience whichever option you choose