5 Questions for Air Charter Operators & Brokers

Convenience, productivity, and safety are important to you, so you’ve decided to charter an aircraft. Your internet search has identified a number of charter operators and brokers, but not all air charter providers are created equally. So how do you identify a reputable charter provider? There are 5 questions for air charter operators you should ask when getting a charter quote, that will make the process of chartering an aircraft more transparent and help you to make an informed buying decision.
Questions to ask when requesting a charter quote include:
5 Questions for Air Charter1.    Are you an aircraft operator or a broker? – This is an important, but often confusing distinction. The aircraft operator is actually flying the charter flight. A broker often acts as a “middle-man” between the consumer and the operator. Brokers can assist with the selection of an aircraft operator for your flight, but they usually charge a mark-up on the operator’s invoice in exchange for this service. The confusion lies in brokers who appear to be operators, especially in their advertisements. It’s important to know who you are dealing with when booking a flight, so ask the question and if they won’t give you a clear answer, call someone else.
2.    What is the FAA Air Carrier Certificate Name and Number? – Ask to see the operator’s air carrier certificate which will include the operator’s name and the certificate number. Also ask for verification that the aircraft you will be flying on is listed on that certificate. Making sure your aircraft operator is a legal, FAA certificated operator is an important safety and insurance consideration (see the article on illegal charter), so be sure your operator has an Air Carrier Certificate.
3.    What are the insurance limits for the aircraft to be chartered? – According to the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) Aircraft Charter Consumer Guide, Hope Aviation Insurance has indicated that “many prospective jet charter clients look for a minimum limit of $50 million ($50,000,000.00) combined single limit, bodily injury to passengers and property damage liability.”   Depending on the number of passengers, the size of the aircraft, etc. your insurance needs may change. Contact your insurance broker to discuss the intricacies of insuring aircraft charter and your specific insurance needs.
4.    What is the crewmember experience level? – Pilots for a legal charter operator must have at least 1,200 hours of total flight time. You should know the total flight hours of the crew and, perhaps more importantly, how many hours each crewmember has in the make/model of the aircraft to be chartered. Industry auditors have recommendations about experience levels to look for with an aircraft crew. In addition, it’s helpful to know crew experience when comparing one operator to another.
5.    Is the operator independently audited? – Ask about the audit history and ratings for the operator.  Independent auditors typically review the operator’s standards, procedures and training. This type of independent verification is useful in identifying quality operators and in comparing operators to each other. Some of the most widely used independent audits are:
Air Charter Safety Foundation
The Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) Industry Audit Standard is a revolutionary audit program that provides a comprehensive, independent review of an operator’s adherence to safety and security regulations. The ACSF Industry Audit Standard is the only audit that specifically evaluates compliance with Federal Aviation Administration Part 135 (and/or 91 Subpart K) regulations. A company that successfully completes the Industry Audit Standard gains a listing on the ACSF’s Industry Audit Standard Operator Registry.  Visit ACSF website
ARG/US (Aviation Research Group/US)
ARG/US rates air charter providers as follows: DNQ (does not qualify), Gold, Gold Plus and Platinum. According to www.argus.aero , “this rate-based scoring method is designed to provide a general peer to peer comparison of the relative safety histories of like-sized operators based on available data.”
Wyvern publishes the Pilot and Aircraft Safety Survey (PASS) report on request that indicates whether the operator, aircraft and crew for your flight meet either an industry safety standard or meet The Wyvern Standard. Those operators who pass Wyvern’s audit procedures become Wyvern “recommended.” Visit Wyvern website 
The International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) is a code of best practices designed to provide an international benchmark for safety and efficiency in business aircraft operations.  Certificates of Registration from the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) are issued to flight departments that have completed a third party industry audit by an IBAC Accredited Auditor. Visit IBAC website
6.   Other considerations – There are many other factors you may want to consider when booking a charter flight. Other resources include:
Aircraft charter is a fantastic choice for a variety of travel needs. Hopefully these tips will make buying aircraft charter a little easier and more understandable.
By Kimberly Page, © June, 2011.  Ms. Page has worked for Keystone Aviation since 1999 where she serves as Chief Financial Officer.  To send questions or comments  click here.
DISCLAIMER:  Statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, editors and publishers. While care has been taken in the compilation of this article to present up-to-date and accurate information, we cannot guarantee that inaccuracies will not occur. Keystone Aviation will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within this article.