In 2017, Hurricane Maria left thousands without power for nearly 11 months. Most recently, Hurricane Dorian was recorded as the strongest hurricane to have hit the Bahamas. In fact, 35 Category 5 hurricanes have been recorded in the Atlantic, 13 over the past 17 years. Given the frequency of these major storms, many companies have adopted an emergency air charter response plan, but what about the after? Here's three things you should know:
Don't Flood the Market
The first mistake made is jumping website to website sending the same emergency air charter or air evacuation request to every airline and broker.
If you don't already have one, find an air charter broker and make them your friend. Bonus points if they are a GSA government contractor. This person will know the market, have relationships with public and private airlines, and understand the equipment needed for your passenger and / or air cargo charter needs.
Once more, this person will have up-to-date information on airport conditions. Will they allow a public or private air charter? Do you need a permit? How many pallets are you allowed to bring in? Does the airport have working fuel trucks? Are there handlers available to unload and load your aircraft once you arrive and depart?
Have Payment Ready
Air carriers will not move aircraft or schedule flight crews until they have payment. Forget about asking, "can I pay for the air charter after the flight?"
Wire is the preferred method of payment, however, ACH / check is acceptable as long as the funds are received prior to departure. Costs for private air charter can range as low as $4,500 per hour to $25,000+ per hour. Payment is the key factor for securing your private aircraft. First come, first paid, first served.
Trust Your Air Charter Broker
Earlier when we suggested you find an air charter broker and make them your friend, we meant it. This is an industry built on relationships. Who does your air charter broker know? What airlines are they partnered with? Are they in good standing with the DOT / FAA? Are they a GSA government contractor? Are they checking carrier history and safety records? Do they have an escrow account? Are they able to get clearance for line throwing guns? The list goes on...
When booking your emergency air charter you need to move quick, which is why flooding the market does you no favors. Affected airports will often limit their acceptance rate to as few as one aircraft per hour, due to the limited resources on the ground. You and your broker need to work as a team and keep an open line of communication.
Your job does not end with calling your broker, if only it was that easy! You are tasked with the passenger and equipment manifests, which you will receive from your broker. Let's say you are an energy or utility company chartering linemen with their equipment. You'll need first and last names, dates of birth, weights, and gender of each passenger. Along with passenger information, you need to be prepared with a full breakdown of the luggage and equipment going under the aircraft. Make sure you communicate to your broker if you will be traveling with hazardous materials as some carriers may have restrictions.
Ready to Book?
Do not, I repeat, do not flood the market when looking for an emergency aircraft charter. Instead, ask your broker to help you with your emergency air charter response plan. Be prepared with your small plane charter or large group charter before the natural disaster hits. Have a contingent agreement in place, talk about emergency funds being held in escrow, and most importantly, trust your air charter broker.