Chartering a private jet can be complex, especially for the first-time buyer. A reliable, reputable air charter broker will present you with a number of options while helping you make sense of it all. Ask questions about your broker. After all, private air charter is usually a significant financial transaction. You also want to be sure that your broker is focused on your safety, first and foremost! In this blog, we will cover some things that you will want to know about your air charter broker.
How to Select a Reputable Air Charter Broker
While there are many factors to consider when deciding if an air charter broker is reputable, we have narrowed down our top seven that you should consider. Making sure you have all the relevant information on these factors will help you to make the best possible selection of a broker that is right for you.
There are few barriers to entry in the air charter brokerage business. Ask any operator that has to contend with the seemingly endless supply of newly minted brokers. While being a new company should not be an immediate disqualifier, experience matters. If your brokerage company is brand-new, ask about the management team. What is their level of aviation experience? Do they have experience as an air charter broker?
Aircraft operator experience does not always translate on the brokerage side. You will need to have assurances that you are not part of the (really big) learning curve of the air charter brokerage industry and that your broker is bringing significant experience to the table.
While there is no right or wrong answer here, it is a question worth asking. Some brokerages are single person operations that offer a very strong product, run by reputable owners with decades of experience. However, one person can be stretched very thin. You will need to ask how they will be able to support your business 24/7/365. The converse is the brokerage with dozens if not hundreds of employees. While size can bring depth, it can also come at the cost of additional layers, departments, and that not-so-personal touch. Some large brokerages do a tremendous job making the charter process feel seamless, while others less so. You will want to select that “just right” size that fits your needs.
Ask for references. Chartering is a big deal and you have a right to know what level of service you will be getting after the sale. Take references with a grain of salt, given that nobody is going to offer up a bad reference. The important thing to keep in mind is that if a broker is unable to provide you with any references, that’s a big ole’ red flag waving at you. If possible, ask for references specific to your industry. If you are a corporate client in the market for a large group air charter, that time the broker moved the 1980’s rock star and his dog might not be the most compelling or relevant reference.
4. Operator and Aircraft Vetting
Ask your broker if they are using a recognized third-party audit company to vet operators and aircraft on your behalf. Inquire as to what standards they are vetting operators and their aircraft against. Lastly, if a brokerage claims to utilize an internal audit system, ask what that means. Ask about:
What their vetting process is.
The information is being audited.
Their qualifications for developing an internal auditing system are.
While such systems can be very robust, if not superior to third-party audit protocols, claiming to have such a system is rife for duplicity. Check closely, and ask lots of questions.
5. Air Carrier and Aircraft Selection
This is where a good broker can save you a lot of headaches, lost sleep, and less than happy passengers. An experienced broker knows the market. They know which operators offer the best service, and which ones don’t, allowing you to make the best value purchase which may not always be (often it is not!) the lowest price. You can rely on a reputable and experienced air charter broker to give you the inside scoop on private jet operators as well as the aircraft that they operate. Sometimes the lowest price is a bargain. Sometimes that higher priced operator is actually not that much higher when you consider fleet size, aircraft condition, safety record, and service. As with anything, you get what you pay for – a solid broker can help you make the best choice possible.
6. Vetting of the Broker and Owner
Use social media and online resources to vet both brokerage companies as well as their owners. Like any industry, the reputable companies far outnumber the bad apples, but you will want to run a quick web search to see if there are any recent headlines that might give you pause with doing business. It will also give you an opportunity to learn more about your broker and avoid the “oh, God, not THAT guy!” type moments.
7. Financial Protections
For some large transactions such as large group air charter, most established brokers offer escrow services that utilize accounts that are Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant. A good broker will also ensure that the air carrier is meeting any escrow requirements that may apply to your particular charter operation. For example, there are specific DOT escrow requirements that large aircraft operators (greater than 30 seats) must comply with.
Making the Cut
Most brokers have access to the same aircraft and operators. However, there are five key factors that you should consider when making your decision. These are:
Is your broker responsive?
Do they make you feel like you are important to them?
Are they reliable?
Does the charter product match what they presented to you?
Do they come through when you need them?
The best brokers add value by helping you to make the best decisions based on your needs and budget. They also bring their negotiating experience, buying power, and influence to the table on your behalf. As in real estate, you do not need multiple brokers to represent you. In fact, doing so may be counter-productive. Choose one air charter broker that you feel comfortable with. Over time, they will become your trusted advisor to assist you with navigating the process of chartering a private jet.