Senate loosens rules on private charter flights
On April 7, the Senate Rules Committee loosened the rules on Senators flying private in order to provide senators a safe means of travel should they need to get to Washington DC to serve their constituents. Politicians flying private has traditionally been taboo, or at minimum, frowned upon by tax payers. While there have no doubt been instances of an occasional private charter flight being used for dubious purposes by elected officials, in the majority of cases where private planes are used, it is a logistical necessity. Much like a CEO of a large business, government officials have a lot on their plate, and flying private solves a lot of the logistical challenges with their schedules and allows them to keep up with the heavy demands.
Preparation and Due Diligence
If your office has not flown private recently, we suggest brushing up on some tips for booking a private jet. An experienced air charter broker can help you navigate the business jet charter market to ensure you are selecting the right type of private jet and the right operator. If you have vendor registration requirements, you will want to discuss those in advance to expedite the process of booking your private aircraft for mission-critical travel.
Partnering With the Right Broker and Air Carrier
Make sure that your air charter service company only utilizes carriers that are Part 135 certified for small group travel (under 30 passengers). As a baseline for service, your air charter broker can research the market and determine availability across the marketplace, furnishing you with a variety of price quotes and aircraft options (that is the easy part!).
More importantly, your air charter broker should help you understand the differences in the options available to ensure that you are utilizing a safe, reliable and trusted air charter operator to get you in and out of Washington DC. A full-service air charter broker will also coordinate all charter flight logistics, as well as provide a 24/7 Duty Officer to assist with last-minute inquiries and to coordinate flights after hours. If you utilize an air charter broker, make sure they are an approved federal contractor (our GSA federal contract number is GS33F0012V). This will enable your office to utilize the GSA purchasing vehicle, and also means that the air charter broker has been vetted by GSA.
Washington DC Airports
Dulles International Airport (IAD) is likely the preferred destination for a charter flight. However, there are restrictions in place and additional permits required to land at IAD. The process is nowhere near as challenging for government officials as it is for the general public, but there is still additional turnaround time required. Make sure your air charter company is aware of this and familiar with the process!
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is the alternate. For a last-minute or even same-day flight, this might be an alternative option.
While it may seem like the best decision is to go with the cheapest solution (you are using taxpayer dollars, after all), the best decision balances costs with quality, and above all safety. Don't be tempted to borrow a jet that is not Part 135 certified to save money. Check out the differences between a Part 135 certified carrier and Part 91 certified carrier, if you are considering borrowing a jet, and learn why that is not a good idea.