Dec. 3, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased interest in business aviation, bringing new customers to the industry. Most charter operators have responded by implementing best practices for aircraft cleaning and disinfecting as well as social distancing.

A panel during the NBAA GO Virtual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (VBACE) panel examined how charter differs from traditional airline travel. In the session, Chartering a Private/Business Aircraft: Tips for First-Timers, NBAA Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation Mike Nichols, CAM, laid out the various options available.

Nichols explained a typical charter customer uses an aircraft for 50 or fewer hours per year, and customers can book directly with a charter operator or with a charter broker, an entity that arranges air transportation but does not directly provide the transportation.

By comparison, on-demand charter, jet card programs and membership programs are different from charter, in that they typically include pricing of one-way flights, opportunities for shared flights and other perks.

Flights under any of these programs may be tax deductible if used for business purposes, but customers should verify this possibility with their tax professionals. Charter customers should consider their specific needs when looking for a charter operator or charter broker.

“It’s important to understand what your mission and needs will be,” said Bradon Miller, director of charter sales at Desert Jet, explaining there are many options available to charter customers and the right solution depends on the customer’s unique needs.

Miller recommended first time charter customers look for a referral to a specific charter operator or broker and ask if the operator has received a third-party safety audit.

“If you’re going to book charter, particularly for the first time, don’t do it in a rush,” said Sonnies Bates, CAM, and CEO of WYVERN Ltd. “It takes a while to develop relationships with brokers or the actual operator.” He encouraged first-time charter customers to ask questions about a charter operator’s safety programs, specifically if the organization has implemented a safety management system.

Miller explained the very nature of business aviation – that is, all passengers on a flight are generally known to one another – ensures a heightened level of security.

Overall, the key to a successful first-time charter experience is to do your research by asking questions on these topics and others before chartering a flight for the first time.

“The best operators are going to be transparent,” concluded Nichols.

Learn more in NBAA’s Aircraft Charter Consumer Guide.