An Opinion Piece by Victor Managing Director, Toby Edwards.
In my last entry, I discussed the unavoidable turmoil that aviation has experienced, and still is experiencing, in the face of COVID-19. Now, there is a justifiable and welcome sense of optimism within the business aviation sector, ignited by an anticipation that individuals who have never chartered before are now more likely to turn to air charter services as a means of protecting themselves, or their employees in this era of the new normal. Thanks to a more closed and controlled environment when flying in a chartered aircraft, business jets offer inherently “safer” conditions to its users.
Rather than describe the well-documented differences between flying on a business jet and flying business class on a commercial airline, I thought it would prove useful for the new wave of customers – whether an executive, travel manager, personal assistant, family office, or a private individual – to highlight four very important considerations when chartering a business jet:
- Transparent quotes
When chartering a business jet through a broker, which has many benefits versus direct with an operator which I will come to later on; it is crucial to understand which service provider will be operating your flight. This is arguably the most important part of the process so as not to leave the transaction open-ended. Before committing to your booking, your broker should disclose the operator name and the tail-number of the aircraft to avoid you being left vulnerable to any changes dictated by them without your knowledge which may be more economically favourable for them but ultimately compromise your comfort. There are few (if any) other high-value services where you are not privy to the end product before you commit to the purchase. You wouldn’t charter a yacht, for example, without knowing the exact yacht you will be boarding, so why should it be any different with a jet? Given the particularly challenging current market, doing your due diligence to ensure you are not flying with an illegal, rogue operator is worthwhile, and of course this is only possible when you know who the operator is pre-booking.
2. Transparent cancellation fees
Too many brokers still charge blanket cancellation fees. The majority of operators are incredibly reasonable, especially with their biggest clients (i.e. large brokers), when it comes to their cancellation fees. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been particularly generous in keeping cancellations fees to a minimum. When booking a charter with a broker you should not necessarily be expected to accept cancellation fees of 50% of the charter price if cancelled upon confirmation of an agreement for instance. Be sure to ask for the operator’s specific cancellation policy and clarify what the broker’s in-house cancellation fee is too. A reasonable cancellation fee for the broker’s time is approximately 10% of the total charter costs and the operator’s cancellation fee will vary subject to when the flight departs, so to be charged 50% (or indeed 100% in some cases) is too often completely unreasonable. Before booking, I highly recommend asking the broker to itemise separately their own cancellation terms as well as the operators. You do not need to accept opaque, blanket fees.
3. Transparent financial protection
All too often customers lose money paid to brokers and operators who have filed for bankruptcy post-booking but pre-flight. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, this risk is only greater during a crisis such as COVID-19. Any reputable business aviation company – operator or broker – will make it explicit under the payment section of their terms and conditions that funds received from the customer will be held in designated client deposit accounts. Under no circumstances should your money, with the exception of the broker’s handling fee, be used as working capital, to “keep the lights on”. It’s especially important to ensure you understand your financial protection when depositing cash for a pre-paid product, such as a jet card, or card program.
4. Transparent service
On-demand jet charter offers flexibility, speed and the vast choice of aircraft worldwide. More so than ever when you are new to chartering, having a trusted expert on hand to guide you through the process is extremely valuable. This is where you will feel the benefit of chartering through a broker, as opposed to direct with the aircraft operator who may not be equipped to deal with the complex demands of pre- and post-booking, as well as pre- and post- flight support. Your dedicated broker should know the ins and outs of your preferences, your requirements, your booking, and be on hand 24/7 to answer any questions and offer advice. Beyond managing your catering preferences and transport to and from the airport, your broker should be able to support you with any past booking information or environmental impact from each of your flights.
Founded in 2011, our mission continues to be making aircraft charter more transparent, faster and easier than ever before to ensure our flyers are always connected and in control. Transparency has been fundamental to how we do business since our inception, and transparency continues to be the very mantra of our company and the people behind it.
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