Dec. 8, 2016
NBAA has released a new edition of its Aircraft Charter Consumer Guide, with additional information to help consumers make better-informed decisions when selecting a charter operator. The revised publication focuses on topics including illegal charter through certain dry-lease arrangements and chartering through crowdsourcing.
The guide also provides procedures developed by NBAA’s Part 135 Subcommittee for identifying credible charter operators, and tips for selecting the best charter operator to meet a customer’s on-demand travel needs.
“The Aircraft Charter Consumer Guide is one of NBAA’s most popular member publications,” said Brian Koester, NBAA’s manager of operations. “We updated this guide to help prevent customers from falling victim to scam charter arrangements, and to provide guidance regarding crowdsourcing, which is growing in popularity as a lower-cost option for charter customers.”
While dry-lease arrangements can be legally drafted and executed, some Part 91 operators attempt to evade Part 135 commercial operator regulatory oversight by providing a sham dry lease to customers. Dry leasing results in the customer holding operational control over the aircraft and incurring all liabilities in regards to that customer’s operations. The sham dry-lease scenario is typically conducted without proper authorizations from the FAA, including, for example, letters of authorization for RVSM in the customer’s name as the operator.
To further complicate matters, some Part 91 operators participating in this illegal activity dry lease a single aircraft to multiple parties.
“Customers should be wary of dry-lease arrangements offered in lieu of a charter flight, particularly on short notice,” said Koester. “Legally executed dry-lease agreements take some time to draft and coordinate and should be reviewed by legal counsel familiar with aircraft dry leases.”
The updated guide also offers new guidance regarding crowdsourcing of charter flights through the internet and mobile applications. Through crowdsourcing, charter brokers and operators can match potential customers with other consumers who are willing to share available seats on a charter flight. Especially when using mobile applications, NBAA recommends asking the charter broker or operator if the flight will be shared or wholly chartered by one customer.
“Crowdsourcing can be advantageous for charter customers looking to reduce costs,” said Koester. “However, it’s important to understand the details of a crowdsourcing arrangement. How many additional seats will be sold? Can the flight time change due to new passengers’ requests? What happens if other passengers are late for the flight?”
The guide includes a list of suggested pre-screening questions to use when vetting a potential charter operator or considering a legal dry lease, as well as a form to request proposals for specific air charter flights. The request for proposals form includes several questions regarding safety, logistics and pricing for the charter broker or operator to answer as part of the vetting process.