There are more than 2,500 air charter operators flying in and out of thousands of airports in the US and thousands more around the world. It's likely, there are a few operating at a regional airport near you, ready to provide on-demand private air travel for business and pleasure trips. But how do you know if the charter operator uses an experienced crew or if it will be able to accommodate last-minute itinerary changes?
Before you sign a contract with a charter operator or charter broker, ask questions about safety, insurance and customer service to be sure you're getting the service you need. The questions below are a good start and are part of a larger document, the Aircraft Charter Consumer Guide, published by the National Business Aviation Association.
Background and Experience:
1. Who is the FAA-certificated charter operator that will conduct our charter flights? What experience does the operator have? How long has the operator been in business: In aviation? As an air charter operator?
2. What types of aircraft are on the charter certificate? What year(s) were the aircraft manufactured? What, if any, major refurbishments (interior, flight equipment, paint, etc.) were completed on the aircraft, and when?
3. How many aircraft and crew does the charter operator have? Has the FAA ever taken enforcement action against the operator or one of its flight crewmembers?
4. What experience does the crew have? How many flight hours total time? How many hours in make/model of each aircraft?
5. If special operations (e.g., mountain airports, extended over water) will be conducted, what experience (initial and recurrent) does the crew have with these operations?
Safety and Security:
6. What is the operator’s safety record? Has the charter operator had any aircraft accidents or incidents? If so, what measures has the operator implemented to ensure increased safety?
7. Has the charter operator been audited by an independent third-party organization? What were the audit findings, and how does the charter operator compare to other charter companies? The most common audit companies are ARGUS, Wyvern and also ISBAO.
8. What security screening procedures are in-place (e.g., to identify passengers)? (Note: Appropriately, charter operators will be hesitant to describe their security procedures/plans; your questions should focus on what passengers need to do to comply with the operator’s security program.)
9. How often is training provided to the crew and what is covered in the training? (e.g., does the charter operator provide training above and beyond the minimum training requirements established by the FAA)?
10. Where is the training conducted? Is the initial and recurrent training provided in a simulator or the aircraft?
11. What is the charter operator’s policy on crew flight time and duty limits? If a possible customer trip goes beyond the crew flight/duty times, how would the charter operator conduct the mission and maintain their policies?
12. Who maintains the aircraft? Under which program is the aircraft maintained (CAMP, AAIP, factory maintenance program, other program)?
13. How does the operator handle maintenance situations that, on a rare occasion, might arise during a trip you have booked?
14. If you are planning an international flight, what experience does the operator have flying to/from/within the countries you wish to visit?
15. What specific safety and security measures does the operator implement when conducting operations in that region?
16. Will the charter operator assist with immigration and customs logistics, such as visas and customs forms?
17. Do the pilots, flight attendants and other employees receive customer service training? Are service standards in place; what are they and how are they measured?
18. What is the customer satisfaction rating: low, average, good, excellent? What documentation does the operator have to support that?
19. How soon prior to the scheduled flight will the aircraft be at the airport, ready for departure?
20. To whom should concerns/complaints regarding flight irregularities, safety, or customer service be directed? Is there someone available 24 hours/day, seven days/week in case you have any of these concerns?
21. What company issues the aviation insurance policy? What are the charter operator’s insurance coverage and limits?
22. Will the charter operator name you as an additional insured?
23. Will the charter operator provide you with a waiver of subrogation and a certificate of insurance confirming the coverage and aircraft that will be used for the flight?
24. How will the charter company accommodate you if there is a problem encountered with the flight arrangements? (e.g., charter operator’s aircraft is unavailable either prior to booking the trip or the aircraft becomes unavailable after the trip is booked) Will the operator find another charter operator to conduct the flight?
25. If a problem is encountered and a substitute charter operator is to be used, who is that operator and what are the substitute’s answers to pre-screening questions 1–24?
If you're relatively new to air charter services, read the private air charter overview, which will give you an idea of the benefits, the downsides and the costs.
Checklist reprinted courtesy of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).