- 28 Jul 2021
- Fabrizio Poli
Having explored the cabin electronics element of business jets as they relate to possible charter revenue for aircraft owners, Chris Kjelgaard concludes the series discussing tips with the experts relating to cabin furnishings, galley equipage and luggage space…Back to Articles
Cabin furniture materials and finishes are highly important considerations for owners buying jets that will be made available for charter operations.
Making sure that the furniture coverings and fittings are robust, long-lasting and easily maintainable is of critical importance. The aircraft “can’t be out of service because someone spilled red wine or there’s a tear” in the seat cover or carpet, says Kevin Kliethermes, Director of Sales for Flying Colours Corporation.
Owners should bear in mind that aircraft made widely available for charters generally operate more flying hours than those operated purely on private flights. “From a charter perspective, durability is huge,” he adds. “Coloring [of furniture coverings, carpets and finishes] is important. Red wine and blue jeans are terrible for cabins.”
Furniture coverings need to be made of tough materials, such as Ultraleather. Window linings also need to be made of durable materials. Carpets and furniture coverings can’t contain silk because it is too fragile – they need to be made of strong materials and they shouldn’t be light in color. So, white-leather seats are a no-no, as are light-colored carpets.
“There are many beautiful interiors you can’t maintain for a charter aircraft,” says Eric Zipkin, Founder and President of Oxford, Connecticut-based scheduled and charter operator Tradewind Aviation. “It needs to be hard-wearing. A good refurbishment shop can provide insight into what wears well and what does not.”
High-polish veneers on wooden panels are not good from a maintainability perspective, he warns. Additionally, “an innocuous interior allows the aircraft to age well from a style standpoint”. Neutral cabin-interior colors — particularly “earth tones,” are best, says Kliethermes.
Tips on the Galley
Highly equipped galleys usually aren’t necessary in smaller aircraft operating US domestic charters, which tend to comprise under three hours’ flight duration, according to Zipkin. “In the US domestic market, people are less demanding than in the international market.”
Kliethermes says that, “on normal aircraft for Part 135 charters, as long as there is a decent microwave [cooker], coffee, beverages and the ability to take care of catering”, those necessities will amply suffice for most charter passengers.
“Even on [US] transcontinental flights, 90% of clients will be comfortable with the standard galley offering. The other 10% will search for their jets accordingly.”
But for “flights of five hours or more, there is a different expectation,” Kliethermes adds. “There will be differences in how you store beverages and prepare food, etc.” This is particularly true for aircraft operated on long-haul international charters and in markets outside North America.
Ann Pollard, an Aircraft Sales and Acquisitions Representative for Duncan Aviation, agrees. “A lot depends on the mission, cabin size, and passenger count. Ovens, microwaves, wine coolers, coffee makers and espresso machines are all amenities that can be combined into the functional and beautiful galleys found in today’s business jet cabins.”
These features are very popular with charter passengers and aircraft owners alike, she notes.
Cabin Storage, Baggage Capacity, Lavatories and Aircraft Access
Owners and operators of aircraft used for charter flying also have to take into account several other equipment factors that can strongly impact the desirability of an aircraft for charter operations, says Pollard.
For instance, “While cabin storage isn't as much of a challenge on Super Mid-Size or Large Jets, it can be a real issue on Light and Mid-Size Jets,” she says. Duncan Aviation often reconfigures cabinets to allow for more efficient storage of catering and cabin supplies.
“Well-designed galley and lavatory storage can reduce cabin clutter and enable operators to stock a wider range of catering and passenger amenities, thereby improving the passenger experience,” Pollard adds.
“Internal and external baggage capacity is also a key factor for charter aircraft,” she continues. “Passengers are not always familiar with the size of aircraft baggage compartments, so it is important for operators and brokers to explain the limitations. There's a reason that aircraft with larger baggage compartments tend to be more popular charter aircraft, particularly for Light and Mid-Size Jets.
“In the charter world, not being able to fit all of a customer's luggage is often referred to as a ‘Bagtastrophe’ and is dreaded by crew members and passengers alike. Passengers prefer aircraft that can accommodate bulky items such as golf clubs, skis, and even precious works of art.”
While not a topic that commands much media discussion, “Lavatory size and functionality is important to passengers, particularly on longer missions,” Pollard notes. “There are many ways to increase the functionality of small spaces.
“Pop-up lavatory storage compartments can create places to keep essentials, and luxury amenities and slight shifts in fixtures can give passengers greater access to them.” Providing sufficient washroom space to ensure passengers feel comfortable at all times, is a must, particularly for longer-haul flying.”
Another often-overlooked feature on charter aircraft is the configuration of the main entry door and stairway, Pollard shares.
“Aircraft with wider doors and entry steps with handrails provide easier access for the elderly, or for passengers with mobility challenges, and stand-up cabins with flat floors are very also popular features.”
All of these factors increase the sense of space and relaxation for passengers.
Cabin Air Filtration and Purification Considerations
Of course, today, more than ever, owners and operators of business aircraft available for charter have to make guaranteeing the continuing health of their passengers as much of a priority as assuring their passengers’ safety.
“One of the primary reasons people choose to fly private in the age of Covid-19 is to minimize the risk of exposure to contagions,” Pollard says. Duncan Aviation and Flying Colours perform retrofit installations of Aviation Clean Air’s (ACA’s) plasma ionization cabin filtration system, and both have seen a significant increase in demand for the system.
“This component is designed to work with an aircraft’s existing environmental control system as an active air- and surface-purification system,” Pollard explains. “‘Active’ means it’s not passive like an air filtration system that works only when air passes through it.
As the aircraft flies, the ACA system cleans and improves air quality throughout the aircraft by disabling harmful pathogens and neutralizing odors and allergens. Charter clients frequently ask their providers what measures are being taken to combat the spread of COVID, and measures like this provide an added level of comfort.”
So, as you will see, there are multiple areas of the cabin, cockpit and aircraft’s exterior that an aircraft owner or operator must consider when planning to make it available for hire for Charter.
An aircraft management company or MRO center will be able to talk these through with you in greater detail to ensure you plan and execute an aircraft refurbishment in a way that will maximize the potential revenue you can make from your aircraft when it isn’t flying privately for you.