Boasting flexible dates, hours and destinations, charter flights are beginning to gain popularity among travelers.
Renting an aircraft is an excellent option for those who want to decide every detail of their trip or want to travel to destinations that are not on the tourist map. In some instances, the travel agency is the one booking charter flights for its clients, as it is a convenient way to smooth the transition between activities and ease their schedule.
Although charter flights are fast and convenient, it doesn’t mean that you should book the first one that you come across. Don’t get the wrong idea: the industry is heavily regulated and one of the safest in the United States. Charter airline pilots are highly trained and experienced and up to date with the latest technology and safety standards. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence and ensure the company meets all the requirements.
But how can you evaluate a company’s competence and minimize the risks? Here’s what you should check before you book your flight.
Do They Have an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC)?
The first thing you need to check is if the company has permission from CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) to carry air transportation commercial activities. Be sure that their AOC is still valid when you book your flight as airline companies need to renew it regularly. A hard copy of the Air Operator’s Certificate must be present on every flight and will be shown by the pilot-in-command to anyone that has a lawful right to request it.
Professional and Licensed Employees
All the members of the crew that directly participate in the operations of a flight, from pilots and engineers to communications operators must be able to provide certifications and licenses. However, don’t assume that certification is enough to demonstrate expertise. Ask around and get reviews and recommendations as professionalism and stellar customer service is something you acquire in time. Sure, the flight attendant might have the proper certification but do they have the right interpersonal skills to make the experience smooth and enjoyable?
Keep in mind that the pilot who will fly the aircraft must have an Airport Transport Pilot License. So make sure to check for that too.
A Safety Management System
Every company that organizes charter flights must provide proof of a thorough Safety Management System (or SMS) in place. Even though the Civil Aviation Safety Authority can authorize the Air Operator’s Certificate to a company, it does not mean that the risks are kept to the lowest level possible. Here’s the thing: the AOC is rather a bureaucratic step in a company’s certification that an all-encompassing safety measure. A Safety Management System, on the other hand, shows that the charter company assessed the risks associated with its flights, and came up with a strategy for the most predictable emergencies.
Regulated Commercial Air Carrier Partners
Even if the company itself has all the certifications mentioned above, as long as they work with partners, these have to comply with Air Safety Regulations too. When renting an aircraft, make sure that it has all the documentation needed, even if it is provided by a third-party provider and not directly by the company you booked your flight from.
Even if all the documents and certification are valid and updated, there are still questions to ask. The CASA and other authorities may have certified the company to fly, but the air safety regulations usually demand the minimum necessary before handing them an AOC. Here are some tips that will help you choose a safe charter flight.
Use Your Common Sense to Evaluate the Airline
Keep your eyes open and try to observe the general state of the airline you chose for your flight. Does everything look well-maintained, clean and organized? Is the staff confident and does it have a professional conduit? Does the company inspire trustworthiness? You should trust your instincts if something seems off and cancel. More often than not, minor issues at the surface are an indication of serious problems
Check the Charter Company’s References
Gather as much information as you can from previous passengers of the company. You can start by asking the company to provide a list of references, but don’t stop there. Go online and look for stories about others’ experience with the charter company you are considering. Review platforms like TripAdvisor can offer information on a variety of airline companies, including those that provide charter flights.
Always Have a Plan B in Place
Take into consideration the possibility that you don’t like something about the charter flight. Make sure you know what your options are so that you don’t waste a lot of time and money trying to reach your destination.
Check If You’re in a Country with Safe Charter Flights
Take a look at the list put together by the Federal Aviation Administration. Although the list is only limited to the companies that fly to the United States, it can still help you select the safest options when you are abroad.
Although it is as one of the safest means of transportation, air travel, especially charter flights, is not to be taken for granted regarding safety. Know what to ask for, what to look for yourself and make an educated decision when it comes to your safety. Charter flights can be very comfortable, luxurious or exotic. But in the end, it all comes to making the right choice and minimizing your discomfort.
Ready to book your next flight?
At Tampa Bay Air Charter we specialize in providing service to the Southeast United States and the Caribbean, but serve many other popular destinations as well. Get a quote on your next private flight now.