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How to Navigate the Private Aviation Market

Choices, choices, choices. We live in an age where with just a few clicks, you can find dozens of options for whatever it is you are looking for. This includes private aviation. There are more options for private air transportation than ever; on-demand air charter, fractional ownership, outright ownership, card programs and yes, the occasional Ponzi scheme promising travel like a rock star for the cost of a cab ride. The real challenge is no longer finding suppliers, it is making sense of all of the information and noise, and then making the best value decision.

Determine Best Value versus Best Price

Private air charter is not a commodity, although it is often presented to the consumer as such. Before the internet (yes, there was a time when we did not have access to cat videos),  a big part of an air charter broker’s job was literally just finding aircraft. This involved building a network of operators all over the world. Air charter consumers relied on air charter broker to sleuth out aircraft operators that chartered their aircraft. Post-internet, the air charter broker’s role shifted from finding aircraft (anyone can find aircraft now) to making sense of what can be an overwhelming number of options as well as providing support every step of the way.

Get Out of the Commodity Mindset

Often consumers, as well as many brokers make the assumption that the lowest-priced option is always the best option. This is a commodity mindset, that all offerings are essentially identical, and the lowest price is the best choice. This works fine for buying oil, beef, and orange juice –  not so much for private aviation.

You would not select an attorney or a plastic surgeon just because they were cheap. Your freedom or your beautiful new nose is more important than short-term savings. You would make your selection based on the competency of the individual and the firm that they worked for, their reputation, and their experience. This same careful purchase approach should apply to air charter. Your safety, as well as your charter experience, depend on it.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Private aviation is complicated. For example, a large corporate group of 150 guests looking into air charter will require our staff to determine the best aircraft choice based on a number of criteria. Including but not limited to aircraft size, range, seating configuration, certifications and payload capacity (all that luggage is heavy!).

Based on this information, our team can provide clients with an initial estimate to determine if air charter is right for your group and make recommendations that will best meet your needs. Subsequent to this process, we’ll obtain proposals from a number of operators and then will help you to make the final decision on which operator and aircraft type is right for you.

If a business jet is your thing, then making sense of the many aircraft types, sizes and capabilities are daunting to the uninitiated. What is the difference between a light and mid-sized jet? A super-mid? Are there contract risks to “empty legs”? There is no lavatory on some aircraft(?!) Wait, a turboprop is a jet engine with propellers?  How do I obtain the operator’s safety record? How many hours do the pilots have, and how do those hours compare to the rest of the industry? A good broker is your agent, your educator and your advocate. We’re here to provide those answers and to help you to make the best purchase decision.

Important Factors to Consider

You have seen the options, looked at the pricing and are ready to make a selection. While price matters, what else should be considered when making that final choice? Our staff will help you look at your purchase decision in the aggregate of all of the information that we have.  For example, we may have proposed an airline or business jet operator that has priced higher than other options. Why choose them? One reason might be a larger fleet size.  When aircraft malfunction, we want them to stay on the ground.  This basic principle is why the aviation industry is so safe. Safety always trumps schedule. That said, we appreciate how important it is to maintain a client’s schedule. In the event of a malfunction necessitating a replacement aircraft, larger fleets are typically able to recover the fastest, getting you where you need to go with minimal delay.

Other reasons for not choosing solely on price might include an operator’s performance with our other clients. Remember, we have the benefit of having arranged thousands of charter flights all over the globe.  With that comes knowledge, buying power, vendor influence, and experience that a retail client chartering as few as one time just will not have. Often a new market entrant will price well below the market initially. This creates bargain pricing, but also the risk of the operator learning as they go – learning on your trip.  Sometimes a good price is just that and should be taken advantage of. Other times, there is more to the story. We’ll help you to decide when the former or the latter is true.

Post Purchase, but Preflight

We have guided you to make a wise selection of both operator and aircraft. Are we done one? Not a chance – we’re here to stay until the last passenger is home. This is where that best value purchase mindset will pay off and invariably where the lowest bid option will often fall apart. Our staff will work with the operator on the logistics of your trip. It is not uncommon for the providers and agencies involved with moving an aircraft between two airports to number in the double digits. There are also many logistical details such as arranging check-in counters, gates, obtaining permissions, arranging security, aircraft parking, check-in, catering and landing rights.  Having arranged these types of services for airlines since 1999, our team is often the glue that keeps the vendors together while making sure that staffing levels, services, and schedules match up with our clients’ needs.

Departure Day

Come departure day, we’ll either have staff at the airport or our 24 hour Duty Officer to help you manage day-of logistics. We’ll monitor aircraft movement, airport operations and your ground transportation. If challenges arise we’ll help you make sense of the options and choices available, representing your interests to arrive at the best possible solution. Some brokerages are “set it and forget it” – they find operators, but don’t help you with the process from start to finish.

A quality broker is the most valuable when things don’t go according to plan, due to weather or some other unforeseen event. Our job is to pull all of the pieces of the charter puzzle together, even when plans have changed. While a set it and forget it broker might cost less, the level of service that they provide is much lower. Try reaching a budget broker in the middle of the night when you are running late for your charter flight.

Bringing it all Home

Can you save money by just going with the lowest price? Yes. That said, there are complexities inherent to the air charter industry that make a real case for making a best value selection. More often than not, the best value was the combination of price, aircraft type, operator history and air charter broker capabilities.

Over time, focusing on these criteria has resulted in much better purchase decisions and better charter experiences for our clients. Aircraft operating costs are largely the same across operators. In other words, if there are savings, it has to come from somewhere such as older and smaller fleets, a less experienced staff, or a lower level of service. When you are in the market for private aviation charter, we encourage you to adopt a best value mindset.