When you're flying on a commercial airline, getting your group from point A to point B reliably, safely, comfortably and on time is next to impossible. You can choose two or three, but rarely or never all four. That is, unless you ditch the commercial airline in favor of a private air charter service.
According to one such service, Flair Air of Canada, tour operators, corporations and other groups can affordably charter large commercial-sized aircraft to meetings, incentives and events using an ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance) — or "wet lease" — arrangement, which offers all the benefits of owning a private aircraft at a fraction of the cost.
Under the terms of an ACMI, the air charter service flies the plane and supplies the flight crew, maintenance and insurance. The group, meanwhile, is responsible for fueling, landing fees and other operational costs, but controls where the plane goes, when it departs and who the passengers are. Some services even offer customized options like a modified LOPA (Layout of Passenger Accommodation) — for example, an "all business class" option — or the ability to paint the plane to reflect the customer's brand.
Service is available on a one-off basis for transportation to a single event, or long-term to support regular and ongoing travel.
"An air charter service basically says, 'Leave the flying to us,'" says Flair Air General Manager Chris Lapointe. "You handle the business aspects of [your group]. This arrangement is a lot less expensive than immediately buying an aircraft and assuming all that debt. We can be in and operating a service, or replacing a service that is now defunct, with a turnkey air service in weeks."
Of course, meeting planners, tour operators and other travel professionals should do their due diligence before choosing an air charter service. According to Lapointe, customers should listen to industry buzz, research company track records, and test the stability and transparency of each air charter service by asking probing questions about the charter's history, management, finances, fees and prices, safety procedures, etc.
"Anyone chartering aircraft should understand as much as possible about the carrier before they enter into an agreement," Lapointe says. "It's not always an equal comparison from carrier to carrier. Cost may be less, but also safety may be compromised."