Every day, there are thousands of people traveling on private jets all over the United States and for that matter, all over the world. Most of these people either own their own aircraft, belong to a fractional ownership program, or are in some way or another renting the airplane.
Many looking to charter a jet are easily overwhelmed with the task. That's where a charter broker comes in. The truth is, if you are familiar with jet aircraft and already have a good understanding of the charter industry, a broker is probably not going to be very much help. However, if you're not very well-acquainted with the different types of aircraft available for charter or have never personally handled the charter an airplane before, a good broker can make a world of difference.
A good broker is looking out for your interests during the whole charter process and should save money. In this article, I'll give you a simple overview of how the charter process works when using a broker to help book a private flight.
Your broker's main goal is to find you the perfect airplane for your trip at the right price. They'll locate a qualified operator and work to find you the perfect aircraft that will safely and comfortably take you where you need to go. In addition, they'll do the legwork to validate the airplane is well-maintained and that the charter operation is operated according to FAA regulations.
FINDING YOU THE RIGHT JET FOR THE JOB
Let's first create a scenario and work our way through the process of chartering a jet. Imagine you want to charter a jet from Teterboro airport on the outskirts of New York City across the country to Van Nuys airport, just north of Los Angeles. Since you've never chartered a jet before and aren't very familiar with the differences in aircraft and their operating costs, you decide to use a broker.
The easiest way to find a broker is to search Google. Once you've found a broker and have given them the go-ahead to find you an airplane for your trip, telling them where you want to go and how many passengers there will be, they'll begin to locate the different operators who have that type of aircraft.
For example, for your jet charter from Teterboro to Van Nuys, a broker will immediately know that the right type of airplane for that flight -- something like the Hawker 4000, Falcon 2000 or Challenger 604. These airplanes combine the right mix of speed, size and range for the trip and can comfortably carry nine passengers non-stop across the country. (Depending on how much luggage each passenger is carrying, a smaller jets like the Lear 60 and Citation Excel may be suitable for this trip, as well, but depends on certain factors like weather and fuel endurance.)
Your broker may ask you a few additional questions to make sure they fully understand the needs of your trip, such as...
- Is the flight for business or personal reasons?
- Do you have any preferred cabin amenities, such as a bed, lavatory or a full galley?
- Would you like catering on this flight?
- Do you have any special requests or needs?
With all the information in hand, they'll begin the process of soliciting quotes on your behalf. This means finding and contacting qualified charter operators to get as many competitive quotes as they can. Once they start receiving quotes back from the operators, they'll give you an unbiased review of the private charter aircraft they've found and the various rates the operators will charge to perform the flight for you.
This is the stage of the process where a good broker earns their money. In order to get the most competitive quotes, they'll spend considerable time on the phone and email corresponding with different charter sales people. In fact, depending on the popularity of the route of your trip, a broker may receive anywhere from five to twenty quotes.
Once in hand, they will take the time to discuss the various options, the pros and cons of each quote and to give you their unbiased recommendation based on your preferences.
When you decide on the airplane that makes the most sense for you, the broker will then negotiate on your behalf with the operator and will work to finalize a written contract between you and the operator - an agreement that includes the firm cost of the flight, as well as other details such as possible charges not included in the quote, terms and conditions of the flight and the cancellation policy.
On the day of the flight, your broker will act as a liaison to make sure that all goes as planned. If you have a sudden change of plans and need ground transportation on your arrival, they're there to help you. If you'd like to get catering on your return trip, your broker is there to help make it happen.
PAYMENT TO THE BROKER
How is a broker paid for their services? This is a topic for a future article because there are several ways a broker gets paid for their services.
A broker earns their commission by securing a discounted rate from the charter operator and then charging the customer, you, in this case, the full retail rate. You will pay your broker the full retail cost of the trip, then on the day of the flight, they'll pay the operator the wholesale cost. The difference is what the broker keeps.
Other brokers simply have the charter operator prepare a full retail charter agreement that is between the operator and the client, so that at no point is the broker handling your money. They'll then invoice the operator for their markup after the flight has completed.
There are many ways this transaction can take place, but it's important that the charter client be aware of how the broker will be compensated for their services. This is a simplified summary of how the charter process works when using a broker to arrange for travel on your behalf. Be aware that all operators and brokers have their own way of doing things, and the best way to find out how they do it is to simply ask them to explain it to you.
DOES A BROKER SAVE YOU MONEY?
The simple answer to that question is that it depends on the broker. The likelihood is that you'll be paying substantially more than is necessary if you don't do the work to shop around for competitive quotes. Also, without the immediate knowledge of the industry and access to it, it would take a considerable amount of your time to find competing quotes from operators that have the right aircraft for your trip needs. A good broker has an in-depth knowledge of the industry and will do the due diligence to identify which charter operators will be a suitable match for you, based on safety audits, insurance coverages and limits, customer service audits, your itinerary and their aircraft availability. Using a good broker should be the safest and most efficient way to book your next charter flight.
A good resource for more information about chartering an aircraft can be found at the National Business Aircraft Association's website.