020 was a challenging year (to say the least) for the travel industry. With organizations moving to a work-from-home or socially distanced office environment, most companies have resorted to virtual meetings and all but eliminated any non-essential travel (and understandably so).
Now that organizations are turning the page and looking ahead to the summer and beyond, good news seems to be on the horizon. Indicators show that the demand for corporate travel will start to pick back up, and with that, organizations are in the early planning stages for upcoming trips.
Many organizations work with a travel planner to coordinate all the details of large trips, including the hotel, meeting rooms, meals, excursions, entertainment, ground transportation and air. Others, of course, will take on this challenge in house. Regardless of who is planning the trip, countless hours will be spent on RFPs, discussions with vendors, reviewing quotes, and putting together presentations for internal review.
While everything is being put together, and with the ongoing uncertainty in the world, there is a chance that the travel planner has been told 'this is great, but several employees are still concerned about travel, so we should hold off on finalizing plans for now'. No doubt, the biggest source of concern for organizations is not the time spent at the destination, but rather the flight to and from. Even though optimism for travel this year is growing and that several team members may currently be comfortable with flying, organizations still maintain responsibility for their teams safety, both at work and during work sponsored outings. As such, they may determine t
hat the risk is not worth the reward.
But there is another way...charter flights to the rescue!
Perks of Incentive Group Air Charter
One of the initial questions that we receive from groups is 'is it cheaper to charter than to fly commercial?' In short, no it is not, for a number of reasons, which we will get into in a moment. That being said, a charter flight offers several perks that commercial travel does not offer. Depending on the groups travel preferences and budget, it could offer great value for the organization, some perks of charter flights include:
Utilize private terminals to avoid the general public
Travel together with your entire group, and only your group
Fly direct - no unwanted layovers and additional risk/touch points for your guests
Social distance as much as desired. Want to leave those middle seats empty? You are in control of how many passengers fly and where they sit.
Maintain your own travel schedule. No more waking up at 4am and battling traffic to catch your 7am flight.
If you are a travel planner, a DMC, or even the destination, the safety and security of a charter flight could be the difference between an organization moving forward with their upcoming trip or not, and the cancellation of the trip could result in tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for your organization. Even if you are not directly responsible for the flights, it is worth ensuring that your group considers all options for their trip, including charter flights.
As we indicated previously, a charter flight is very rarely the most cost effective option for traveling. It is a logistical solution for moving large groups in a more efficient manner, and offers several perks (as discussed) to improve the travel experience and make it safer in a COVID world. For organizations or travel planners that have not coordinated a charter flight before, it is important to understand some of the basics.
Ferry vs Live - Unlike when you fly commercial, the aircraft has to get to you from wherever the aircraft is being pulled from. This, along with any time the aircraft is flying empty, is referred to as the ferry. Lets look at a hypothetical incentive trip from Philadelphia to the Bahamas. The carrier may have to move the plane to Philly from JFK, so JFK to PHL is the first ferry for this trip. Your trip from PHL to NAS is the live leg, when the group is actually on the plane. Unless the carrier is leaving the aircraft for a week (which they won't), it will then ferry back home. It will do it all in reverse to pick you up. Lots more ferry flying than live!
Flight Hours - As far as the carrier is concerned, the flight time of the trip out from Philly to Nassau is not just the live leg, it is from JFK - PHL - NAS and back to JFK (and then the aircraft will do the reverse to bring you home). Over the course of a round trip flight, this might bring the total flight time for the aircraft and crew to 2x, 3x, or even 4x the actual flight time to get you to/from your destination. Who pays for this? Well, it is built into the pricing, and the group will pay for it. This is a key driver in the price of the charter flight, and one of the the answers as to why it costs more to charter than fly commercial.
Aircraft Options - If you are not familiar with planes, there are several different options for group sizes ranging from 30 up to 450 or even more. For huge groups that require multiple aircraft, it may be that a single carrier is not the best solution, but a combination of carriers and aircraft types will make the most sense. With several factors to evaluate such as economy or mixed configurations, VIP aircraft, domestic or foreign operators, aircraft comforts such as seats that recline and leg room, or event catering capabilities, etc, you will find that each aircraft and operator may have different pros and cons for your trip.
Between the myriad of choices and the high costs, not to mention all the contract language, payment options, and charter flight logistics, we recommend working with a qualified broker to help your group navigate the market to find the right option for your group, and act as your groups advocate to make the best decision for their upcoming trip.
With all the challenges that airlines are having today, shouldn't they be grateful to just fly us, and why does charter still cost as much as it did before COVID?
This is a great question. Bottom line is that the commercial airline industry operates on very tight margins. Carriers that are efficient with routing and good at filling the planes up, generate revenue by moving lots of people efficiently. This is how they are able to keep ticket prices low - they make it up with volume.
In charter, you are often tying up and aircraft and crew for an entire day, so the carrier has to generate the same revenue (if not more) for your one flight than for a regular day with maybe 5 or 6 flights to make it worth while. In addition, there are so many fixed costs involved, including crew costs, ground handling costs, baggage costs, taxes/fees, etc. Fuel alone for a trip could run tens of thousands of dollars!
So where do we start?
For organizations looking into a charter flight for the first time, a qualified broker can assist your team in finding the right option for your trip. They will also hold your hand throughout the process of contracting, with payment schedules, and all the logistics leading up to and day of travel.
If you are a travel planner, DMC or a resort, be sure to connect your groups with the right people to help get them navigate this complex process. Air Planning offers an industry leading referral program. So in addition to getting a group to their destination safely, your organization can be compensated.
Start your planning off by pulling a quick charter flight estimate with our handy tool below. Or, as you may have learned if you have read up to this point, a charter flight is not a commodity. Reach out to us directly to discuss your upcoming trip, get a more qualified estimate, and start taking the steps in planning your upcoming flights.