- 10 Dec 2020
- René Armas Maes
- Jet Charter
Assuming you have need to charter a private jet, how do you choose from the hundreds of providers on the market? René Armas Maes highlight some of the important questions to ask, helping find the one that provides the best service for you…Back to Articles
As jet charter demand continues to show robust growth, it remains essential for customers to partner with the right provider in order to enjoy a reliable, safe, and consistent travel experience. But how can you tell which is going to offer the best service?
Whether flying for business or personal reasons, you’ll be wanting to ensure the comfort, productivity and ultimate safety of the passengers aboard your flight. Thus, gathering information, interviewing, and benchmarking charter service providers, and doing due diligence are essential – as is asking the right questions of the provider before booking a flight with them.
Following, we’ll provide an outline of some angles of inquiry you may choose to make…
1. Safety Record and Maintenance History
Start your data gathering process by verifying that your intended charter provider holds a valid Part 135 Operating Certificate which guarantees compliance with a number of FAA requirements relating to its flight operations, duty time requirements, maintenance, and pilot and personnel training.
The FAA and the National Air Transport Association (NATA) compile information and offer databases about operators and their fleet size by tail number, helping to verify a potential charter operator’s authenticity and safety track record.
For example, NATA’s Safety Board offers a searchable database of all aviation accidents and incidents since 1962, which can be useful when trying to investigate an operator’s safety record and any previous incidents involving its fleet.
Moreover, how does the would-be charter provider hire its pilots, and what are its training requirements for employees? And how are its aircraft maintained - in-house, or through a third party? If maintained in-house, how are the maintenance staff hired and trained, and if externally, is it by a third-party provider that’s manufacturer approved?
Last (but certainly not least), audits are conducted to ensure regulatory compliance pertaining to aircraft maintenance, pilot training, operational procedure such as Safety Management System, and personnel qualification among others. If an operator has been in business for a few years, it’s likely to have been audited by an independent, third-party organization.
Obtain the audit reports, especially when benchmarking different operators, making sure you understand what the key findings are, and how these have been addressed (or not) since being identified.
2. Travel Analysis, Customization and Audits
Next, make sure you understand your own travel needs for the next 24 months. Can the prospective charter provider(s) meet 100% of them?
As an example, one day you may need a Light Jet to conduct a two-hour domestic flight, whereas the following week, you may require a Large Cabin Jet with transcontinental range to carry a party of ten, including bulky luggage.
The ability of a charter provider to adapt to your travel needs, while offering not only the flight itself, but a highly customized end-to-end solution (such as 24/7 concierge services) will offer you maximum flexibility for your mission needs and enhance customer satisfaction.
Be aware: There’s far more to this process than simply identifying Light Jets for shorter-range missions and Large Jets for longer-range missions.
You’ll need to review other operational needs, such as airport climb gradient and accessibility. Does the prospective charter provider have the aircraft in its fleet to manage the specific locations you need to visit?
As an example, in the Light Jet category the Pilatus PC-24 is capable of operating in and out of unpaved runways, and offers short-field take-offs and landings. Offering a Balanced Field Length of 2,650 feet, six other Light Jets benchmarked against the PC-24 for the purpose of this article and averaged a Balanced Field Length of 3,359 feet.
Understanding your specific operational requirements – whether those include aircraft capable of steep approaches, or superior hot and high airport performance – will allow you to hone your potential charter provider search, based on the aircraft in their fleet.
3. Price, Aircraft Availability, Fuel Surcharges & More…
Compared to other types of private flight services like jet cards or a membership program, ad hoc charter tends to be a more volatile pricing model, especially when it comes to demand during peak days, holidays and key sports events.
Indeed, ad hoc charter providers may impose peak day surcharges, whereas jet card/jet membership is more likely to offer a locked-in rate, helping remove some of the price volatility as the price structure moves away from pay-as-you-go towards a point-to-point, all-inclusive service without additional fees.
But this will also depend on the program chosen, so make sure you understand exactly what is, and what isn’t included in the price if you’re planning to purchase a jet card.
As the charter industry continues to face strong demand some operators may find it difficult to guarantee aircraft availability, and operate on a first-come-first-served basis. You’ll need to establish how early it is necessary to book a flight prior to departure to guarantee the aircraft you need. In some cases, this may be 72 hours prior to departure.
Check where the prospective charter operator is based, too, since it may need to ferry or reposition an aircraft to your intended departure airport, increasing the cost to you. With this in mind, it could be wise to begin assessing the charter options available at, or close to your home airport first.
And, on the subject of additional cost, what other services incur surcharges, and how are these charged? You’ll need to understand the pricing structure for use of onboard Wi-Fi, de-icing, catering, and even pet cleaning if applicable to your travel requirements.
Additional charges for international flights, daily minimums, cancellation fees (both for you and the charter provider, including for mechanical and weather-related events), administration fees, and special catering requirements need to be discussed and agreed.
Charter customers should expect a fuel surcharge to be added. This surcharge protects the charter provider against the volatile price of fuel which fluctuates almost daily. In fact, owing to the fuel cost surcharge, a charter quote may vary from one day to the next.
Since it is highly unlikely you’ll be able to negotiate your final fuel price for an ad hoc charter flight, you’ll need to ask all the right questions on the subject, carefully reviewing and understanding the charter contract every time you plan to fly. Extra fees under clauses such as ‘force majeure’ may also be unexpectedly added to your final bill.
Asking the right questions before committing to a charter flight can save you time, stress and money. And it will ensure your valued passengers travel in comfort and safety.
Once you have settled on one or two preferred charter providers, becoming a recurrent customer, don’t forget to negotiate, especially where opportunity may exist to waive certain service fees, such as aircraft de-icing, pet cleaning, and ground transportation.
And when you know you have the need (e.g. a minimum 25 hours travel annually) and you’ve built a relationship of trust with your charter provider, it’s worth going a step further and negotiating a block hour charter deal (jet card/jet membership program that includes further savings and other volume-associated discounts. Bon Voyage!