It goes without saying, but COVID has changed travel. While charter flights have always solved several of the challenges of group travel, with COVID, each of these benefits is magnified by offering an overall better and safer travel experience. If you are a travel planner working on that upcoming corporate meeting, student trip, or incentive group, a charter flight may be the difference between the group moving forward with plans or cancelling plans.
1. Use large group air charter to eliminate unwanted connections.
No matter the type of group that is traveling, we can all agree that a direct charter flight is much more appealing than flying commercial with a two-hour layover and a terminal change in DC. For some groups, flying direct is a logistical necessity for the trip, and it is not always possible to book a large group direct on commercial flights or through group sales departments.
For our corporate travel partners - be sure to eliminate one of the hardships of travel and cut down on travel time. What good is an incentive trip if your guests have to spend a full day on each end getting to and from their destination? A four-hour direct flight could easily run 6-8 hours with a connection.
2. No name change fees! Plus, you can update your manifest, even on the day of travel.
Almost every trip we plan includes a change in the manifest at least one time leading up to the charter flight. During the initial planning stages, we will ask about group size. A common response is “in the 160-170 passenger range, give or take.” With many large group charter flights booking as far out as 10 to 12 months in advance, it is impossible to determine the exact head count and who will be traveling. Not to mention the all the unexpected last minute passenger drops that can occur due to travel concerns or potential COVID exposure.
With a charter flight, you can rest easy...you do not need all the answers right now. When you book your flight, you will know the maximum number of seats that you have available and you can work to fill those up until the day of the trip. Initial manifest is typically submitted a week or two prior to travel, and can be changed day of travel. Some airlines will charge up to $200 to change the name if you book on commercial. These fees can add up substantially.
3. No checked baggage fees.
Nobody wants to be nickeled & dimed and worry when they are packing the day before their trip about whether they can fit everything in the small suitcase to carry-on or if it is worth the additional $30 – $50 to check their bag one way. Yes, some airlines do offer a free checked bag, but the majority do not. If you have a large group of 150 people checking a single bag at $60 round trip, even non-math majors can calculate that these costs can add up to $9,000 or more. The cost to charter a plane will include all of your luggage costs. If you are bringing larger luggage, golf clubs, large instruments, football equipment or hockey pads, we will ensure that you are on an aircraft that has the cargo capacity and payload to handle your needs.
4. Choose your airport and flight times.
When coordinating large group travel, the entire cost (and other hardships) of the trip should be factored in. If members of your group have to leave home at 4am, fight traffic to the airport and find parking for their 7am flight, you will likely see an expense report of over $100 for mileage and parking, plus a lot of cranky travelers.
Alternate options could be out there. Perhaps you can coordinate your private air charter out of a smaller, less congested but equally capable airport where you will avoid most of the traffic and significantly cut down on parking fees (check out our blog on Airport Runways to learn more about how runway lengths could impact your trip). Also, plan your flight for 9am rather than the scheduled service flight time of 7am. Avoid traffic, get some extra sleep and have a great trip.
5. Transport your entire group together.
Even if Dwight and Jim do not get along at the office, it will be much easier to fly them together rather than on separate group blocks. Plus, wouldn't we all enjoy the shenanigans and pranks that Jim pulls on Dwight throughout the trip?
If you are coordinating student travel for a high school band performing in the Rose Bowl Parade, a choir group going on a summer tour, a sports team charter flight or even a spring break trip…that is a lot of chaperones and flights to track. How will you perform when 20 of your students are stuck in Charlotte because a delay caused them to miss their connection, or if they don’t have their instruments because luggage took a wrong turn in Albuquerque?
Let’s not forget about the logistical challenges you now have as their travel planner. Finding new flights and tracking down luggage is not fun.
6. Personalized in-flight enhancements.
Many corporate clients and sports teams would like to serve their employees a meal, a drink, offer a goodie bag or have their own custom branding on board. Elevate the guest experience to a level that represents your brand, especially if the groups that are traveling are your top employees or customers. Their vacation or trip doesn’t have to start when they get to the resort, it can start well before takeoff.
7. Multiple aircraft charter options for groups of all sizes.
One of our roles when assisting with your charter flight is helping determine which airline and aircraft is the best option for your group. Whether it is a regional jet, a narrow-body aircraft seating 150 – 180, a wide-body aircraft seating 380+, or anything in between, we will help find the right aircraft or mix or aircraft to get your group to your destination. There are also a number of options that offer mixed configurations with a combination of business class and economy, along with full VIP-configured aircraft.
If you have a very large group of 500+, sometimes it will take a combination of multiple charter flights and scheduled service to get the group to their destination. We understand that charter flights are not going to be the sole solution, and we will be your air charter guide and help you navigate the best options for your client.
Other things to consider when selecting your aircraft include amenities such as WiFi or an outlet to plug in laptops, fleet size, safety records and reliability. While price matters, there are other significant factors that can impact your charter experience that we will review with you.
8. Streamline your planning and logistics.
The costs of booking large groups on commercial vs. the charter flight costs are greater than just the dollar amounts on the invoice. In addition to extra fees on commercial we have already mentioned (baggage, name changes, parking reimbursements, etc.), as a travel planner, logistics and time spent organizing/coordinating can be substantial. Frankly, your resources might be better spent elsewhere.
Charter is a much more streamlined process with the added benefit of flying private, and with Air Planning on your side, we will help with all of the details to keep things on track. No messing with 10 different travel itineraries and keeping track of who is on each flight. Go ahead and spend your time developing relationships with new groups or treat yourself to a long lunch.
9. Charter flight costs can be much more competitive to group rates than they used to be.
As airlines get better at route planning and more efficient with the ways they utilize their aircraft to maximize revenue per seat, planes are usually traveling at capacity with a full passenger load. This makes it harder to find, and more costly to reserve group space. Don’t get us wrong, the market for charter airlines is equally dynamic, but with the right charter partner on your side, you may find the gap between group fare costs and the costs to charter is closer than you expected.
At a minimum, if you have a large group, reach out to us for an initial estimate to determine how much it will be to charter a plane and if it might be an option for your large group. With the amount of money you are going to spend on the flights, your boss (or your client) will be happy that you looked into all options to get the best value.
10. With Air Planning, you gain over 20 years of expertise in air charter.
If you are in the initial stages of planning a trip, our knowledgeable staff can act as your air charter guide and provide budget ranges for planning purposes or determine whether a charter flight is a realistic option based on group travel needs, budget, departure city and destination. We can even work with you to recommend destinations for your trip. If you are choosing between Puerto Vallarta, Cancun or the Bahamas for an incentive trip, corporate retreat or spring break trip, we can help determine which will be the most cost-effective based on routing and flight block times.
As our client, we leverage our market knowledge to help you choose the best option and will negotiate terms on your behalf. We will provide a single point of contact and coordinate all logistics leading up to and day of the trip. With our 24/7 flight tracking and on-call duty officer, we are working with you every step of the way, even for those late night and red-eye flights.