In an effort to always provide the highest level of service to my own charter clients, I like to get out in the airports and FBOs and talk to charter flyers. Regardless of the business you are in, the only way to really know what your customer wants is to hear it directly from their mouths. In my hours and days at airports, conducting such research, I was actually surprised at what seems to be the number one concern among newer charter clients. It wasn’t concern about aircraft types or pilot experience. It wasn’t even about price. The number one concern among newer charter flyers was how to know that they are dealing with someone reputable, knowledgeable and honest.
If you are new to charter, you might not yet have that one trusted source for all your charter needs. You want the ability to shop price and aircraft types, but also shop among reputable jet charter operators and brokers. Well, as we live in a “buyer beware” world, I suppose there is no easy answer to this, but there are a few common sense things that you should consider.
First off, most operators and brokers are in business to provide a superior experience, keep you safe, and ensure your return business. Though there are a lot of bad seeds out there, they are typically the exception to the rule. When dealing with someone for the first time, ask your charter operator or broker representative a lot of questions about themselves and their firm before doing business. It surprises me how often people with ask for price quotes, but don’t ask anything about the firm quoting the trips. There is no better teacher than experience, so I do recommend working with an individual or firm that has been around for a while. How long have they been in business? Who provides their financial backing? If dealing with an individual, are they just there to get a commission from you, or are they personally involved in the aviation community? Maybe he or she is a former or current pilot, aviation mechanic, dispatcher or airline executive. Members of the aviation “family” will be able to contribute much more to your experience than those who are not. Don’t do business with someone you wouldn’t want to be friends with. Remember, you are putting your safety and that of your family, colleagues or clients in this person’s or firm’s hands. Take that seriously.
When dealing with an operator or broker, spend a little time talking about safety. It’s great if they rattle off the name of the two biggest third-party safety firms, Argus and Wyvern, but does it stop there? Is that all they know? Ask when that Golden-Platinum-Ultra-Titanium safety rating was issued. Have there been any changes such as change in the Director of Operations since then? Are there any new aircraft and pilots on certificate since the safety rating was issued? The third-party safety agencies are a great place to start, but the best operators and brokers, go well above and beyond the safety stamp companies with standards of their own that complement or even better that of those agencies. When was the last time the person you are speaking to actually saw the aircraft being quoted? Did their firm have someone sign off on it to ensure it is fit for the client, or did they simply rely on third-party information?
Get references. I would not book a charter with someone I didn’t know, without asking to speak with some of their other clients. This might be time consuming or even awkward, but I have seen charter broker companies write their own testimonials and post them on a webpage. Speak with a couple of their actual clients. Once you build trust and have had a few good experiences, offer yourself as a reference for their new clients. There is no better way to know about a company, in any industry, than by word of mouth.
Once you have been through this process a few times, you will find your reliable and trusted source for all your charter needs. I usually recommend becoming very familiar with one of the operators at the airport you most often utilize, and one or two reputable charter brokers. This will give you the confidence of shopping savvy, while not constantly taking chances on unknowns.
If you have specific questions about planning a charter flight, just a general private aviation question, or would like to share your experiences on this topic, please feel free to contact me via this form or by posting a comment on this blog, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.