Eric Wells, president of on-demand jet charter service Private Jets Inc., reflects on the FAA’s efforts to combat illegal charter operations.
The market for private charter flights has been strong in markets where Private Jets Inc. has bases. We’re coming off of a busy holiday travel season and demand will remain steady throughout the remainder of the busy winter travel season. With more time in the air this time of year, we’re extremely mindful of the precautions the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken to combat illegal charter operations and we applaud their recognition of the issue.
An illegal charter is booked when an owner of a private airplane accepts money from travelers without obtaining the proper certification for on-demand air charter travel through the FAA. The administration has formed a team to investigate illegal operations and they’ve created educational materials for industry professionals and travelers. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has also launched a task force to address the growing concern across the industry. We encourage leaders in the aviation industry to pay attention to the issue and help by educating their customers on the importance of properly certified companies.
Ensuring the safety of our equipment and the ability of our pilots is a top priority for Private Jets and many other properly certified air charter companies who adhere to the safety and maintenance policies set forth by the FAA. The FAA’s robust system provides checks and balances for properly certified companies. Businesses who are not properly certified – either because they’re unaware of the requirements or by choice – pose an incredible safety risk to the pilots and travelers on board by not meeting these standards.
Certified charter companies must also meet a minimum level of insurance coverage. Uncertified companies may not have adequate insurance to cover damages in the event of an emergency, and the traveler’s insurance may not provide coverage due to the illegal nature of the flight. In addition, crew members of certified companies undergo random drug and alcohol screenings and maintain a regular training schedule.
Consumers and industry professionals can often tell whether a company is certified by comparing costs. Uncertified charter flights often charge less because they don’t have to keep up with the costs that come with maintaining federal requirements. If you notice a deal on a private charter flight that seems too good to be true, I encourage you to ask the operator for their certification number.
As responsible business owners, we should hold ourselves accountable and encourage our colleagues and customers to make sure as many businesses as possible are properly certified to maintain the integrity of our industry. Here are some additional steps we can all take to make sure companies are licensed:
- Consult the FAA’s list of licensed operators and tail numbers of the aircraft they operate.
- Ask for the company’s FAA-issued air carrier operating certificate and operating specifications.
- Contact the local FAA Flight Standards District Office.
About the author: Eric Wells is president of Private Jets, Inc., an air charter company based in Bethany, Oklahoma, at Wiley Post Airport. Wells has more than 20 years of experience in the industry and has also served as a chief pilot, instructor and a check airman.