Due to the COVID pandemic and cross-border travel ban, commercial airline activities have almost come to a complete halt over the past two years. Many well-off travellers have switched to private jet charter to avoid contact with other passengers in an air-tight cabin to lower the risk of infection. Meanwhile, an increasing number of private jet owners and operators are using their aircrafts to operate charter services illegally to make money during this difficult time. Many travellers may accidently ride on unlawful charter flights which provide service to travellers who want to enjoy the luxury at a reduced cost. According to a survey conducted by the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) in 2019, over 90% of respondents in the industry claimed that their business was affected by such illicit practice. These shadowy operations are not only unfair for legal operators who have invested heavily on time and resources to obtain charter licenses, they also put the industry’s reputation at risk by offering unlicensed charter service that ignores passenger safety.
What is an illegal charter operation?
An illegal charter flight refers to an unlicensed charter operation that has not obtained an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) or fulfilled regulations covered in FAR Part 135 under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Without a verified charter license, aircraft owners and operators are not allowed to perform charter service to carry any passengers or cargoes for hire. Even if the operating pilots have a valid pilot license, or the aircraft is fully owned by a private individual, a flight operation is considered illegal if the plane owner supplies his or her aircraft or aircrew to others in exchange for any kind of payment without having obtained legal authorization.
Why is the illegal charter practice looming large?
One word – money! The price tag of an illegal charter is undeniably lower than that of a legitimate charter. It bypasses expenditures such as licensing fees, insurance, aircrew training costs, and all the essential and obligatory safety and maintenance expenses. Both regulations and penalties for illegal charter are also insufficient to act as a deterrent, especially in Asia. In line with the survey published by NATA, 84% of respondents in Asia confessed that they did not or will not report illegal charter even if they encounter one.
Consequences of taking illegal charter
Even though it is hard to discover illegal private jet charter when no one reports, aircraft owners and operators are ultimately liable to lawsuits and will face penalty once the illegal activity is identified. Passengers may also put themselves at risk because of the substandard requirements in pilot training and aircraft maintenance. These unauthorized operations usually do not meet the rigorous safety requirements set by AOC and FAA. Hence, their standard of safety is typically not as strict as that of legitimate flights. In the event of accident, losses may not be covered by insurance. There is no grey area in the charter industry – only legal or illegal. Without Part 135 certification, illegal operators are not allowed to take out insurance policies for passengers!
How do I avoid illegal charter flight?
Always ask the companies or operators to present a copy of their AOC or Part 135 certification whenever you are in doubt. If the company refuses to show you the copies of their certification by making up excuses, you should be more vigilant about such fraud. Sometimes even the pilots do not know the operation is illegal. Patrons are strongly advised to verify the legitimacy of an operator or a specific aircraft by visiting the FAA’s website. To avoid troubles, choosing a charter company with good reputation would always help.
AERO LINK has been a member of the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) for years. The company has well-earned reputation in providing charter service and we guarantee every charter journey arranged by us is legal and meets the highest safety standard. Private jet charter offers maximum health safety to travel during the pandemic. Book your next journey with us now to find out more about this unique experience!