Private Jet Chartering Advice and FAQ
Chartering a private jet for the first time can seem daunting. Here we offer some advice to those new to the market.
Broker or Operator?
You can choose to either arrange your flight either directly with a charter operator or through a charter broker.
The charter operator is the company that owns, or has operational control over, the aircraft. It is they who employs the crew, and it is they who undertake the flights. Dealing direct with operators can be a good option if you are able to negotiate individually with enough operators to find a competitive price. Remember that not all operators bring back their aircraft back to their home bases after a one-way flight, much as taxi drivers don't drive home after each fare, so it would be wrong to assume that operators based at your departure airport would necessarily offer lower prices than those based elsewhere.
Charter brokers act as intermediaries between operators and clients. They have access to industry-wide availability and booking systems, and are able to quickly identify the best options available from the multitude of UK and international operators. They can also identify where operators have out-of-position aircraft that could be chartered at significantly reduced rates for flights back towards their next required locations. Large brokers buy millions of pounds worth of flights each year and, due to their purchasing power, can often source them for significantly less than if you bought direct. And, should price not your highest priority but rather reliability, service or comfort, they will know which of the operators would best meet your requirements.
Smaller jets are the most economical to fuel and operate, and are well suited to carrying 1-4 passengers around Europe. Not only are charter rates lower, they also benefit from being able to use shorter runways and thus can access smaller airports, landing you closer to your destination.
Smaller jets start to have practical limits with larger passenger numbers. On many, leg room can become compromised if all seats are occupied. Baggage capacity may not be sufficient for all passengers to bring as much luggage as they would like.
Large jets offer the most cabin space and greatest range. Cabins are not only longer, but also wider and taller. The extra height in particular is welcome on long flights as it is possible to move around the cabin with more ease. It is true that they require longer runways than the smaller jets, but runways outside of Europe tend to be longer and less likely to be a constraint to using a less busy, regional airports.
Why Are Some Quotes Lower Than Others?
All operators are subject to the same strict regulations on aircraft maintenance and crew training, yet some offer charters at lower prices than others for similar aircraft
One of their cost differentials between operators is their aircraft utilisation model. Like a low-cost airline, a lower-cost charter operator might aim to maximise the number of flights an aircraft makes a day. This shouldn't be a safety concern, as the crew are subject to strict duty hours limits, but might impact your schedule should the aircraft be delayed on its incoming flight, and the charter agreement may stipulate a penalty should you be late for your flight. Operators that build more slack into their schedules, or designate an aircraft to you for your sole use that day, will have higher costs resulting in a higher price.
Possible Extra Costs?
It is standard in the industry for there to be provisions in charter agreements to allow extra charges to be made in a few specified, but abnormal circumstances. Typical of these are fuel surcharges and de-icing charges.
The cost of fuel is perhaps the largest cost of operating an aircraft. Should the cost of fuel rise during the period between a charter being booked and being flown, there may be a surcharge due. If so, it should be specified in the terms and conditions of the charter agreement.
for reasons of safety, aircraft must not take-off with any frost, ice or other contaminate on the surface of the wings or tailplane. Loose snow can sometimes just be brushed off but anything more will require removal by the application of de-icing fluid. This is common practice in the winter and airports have de-icing trucks or fixed stations for this purpose. However the process can use large amounts of fluid and the cost can be significant, and is usually regarded as additional to the charter price. Should schedules be more flexible than budget, it can sometimes be a consideration to depart later in the morning, giving the sun more of a chance to de-ice the aircraft naturally.
What Happens On the Day?
You should have received directions as to where to go when you get to the airport. If the airport also has scheduled airline flights there may well be a separate VIP or private jet terminal, in a different location from the main passenger terminal, to which you should go. You should have contact numbers for the operator's office, and typically you will have been provided with a mobile contact number for the crew.
You can expect to be spared from queueing to go through immigration but you should, of course, have your passport with you. In fact it is worth taking your passport even for domestic flights, as you may still need to show some form identification at the airport. If you hold more than one passport, and have been asked by the operator for your passport details in advance, you should carry the passport that matches the details you gave. The operator may have 'pre-cleared' you with immigration, who will expect your documentation to match that which was supplied.
There is normally no need to arrive at the airport overly early. It should only take a few minutes for your luggage to be screened and you to be driven to the aircraft steps. If you do arrive early, however, you can expect to find a comfortable lounge in which to relax.
On board, the crew will typically have provided the day's newspapers together with a selection of magazines. Quality cold catering is the norm on small jets, whilst on large jets you can expect à la carte dining.
On arrival at your destination, typically your passport will either be checked at the aircraft or you will be escorted through passport control. Either way you should expect to be out of the airport and on your way within a few minutes.