Five Things You Should Know About Air Charter Safety
Here are five things that every private jet charter consumer should know about air charter safety
- There’s no such thing as elite travel without elite safety.
- Safety-conscious brokers wouldn’t, themselves, take the flights that bargain-hunters think are great deals.
- When you charter a plane through a broker agency, and that agency doesn’t do everything in its power to maximize your safety, then you’re being cheated.
- If you charter a plane through a bargain broker based on price, then you may be cheating yourself out of the safety you deserve.
- If your broker agency is not literally obsessed with safety, find one that is.
Lastly, you should also know that when safety and profits are opposed, we at Stratos Jets will always make the right choice.
Im Joel Thomas of Stratos Jet Charters in Orlando, Florida. I founded Stratos Jet Charters, Inc. in 2007 with the vision to provide an air charter service that educates our clients and helps them make informed buying decisions. We exist to be your educational resource, to provide fair pricing and honest advice. The last thing I wanted to do and will never do is to become a bargain-basement Jet-Mart broker like many of the of air charter brokers that have been popping up recently, each promising to provide the lowest price, effectively selling private air travel as a commodity.
I believe that selling private air travel as a commodity drives down the quality of service and undermines air charter safety because it fails to differentiate each aircraft, each operator and the full range of safety considerations for each flight.
Let me give you an example of this. Over Presidents Day weekend, we received a call from a man in Ocala who wanted to fly his son and his son’s family down to Florida that afternoon from Evansville Regional Airport because their commercial flight was cancelled due to a major snow storm. When we presented him with some considered, safe alternatives, he told me that he received a much lower price from another broker. He told me that the other company quoted him on a Piper Saratoga, and he would be booking that option.
That day, an AIRMET ZULU an icy weather advisory from the National Weather Service had been issued in the region around Atlanta. Icing conditions existed from 12,000 feet at Mean Sea Level to Flight Level 20. Knowing this information, I told him that he’d be better off waiting for the storm to pass than to put his family on that particular plane during that particular snow storm flying that particular route. I explained to him how icing affects the aircraft’s ability to generate lift and it was a very dangerous and unnecessary risk to be taking. In the end, he booked a Citation CJ3 with us and his family arrived safely.
While the Saratoga could have safely flown this flight between 8,000 and 10,000 MSL, I considered it to be an unnecessary risk. I felt that way because and this is key there is much more to aviation safety than a given absence of accidents; ideal safety is the absence of risk. There will always be some risk, but a dogged determination to reduce risk as much as reasonably possible is what distinguishes safety-conscious brokers from the “Jet-Marts.”
Here’s another example of risk mitigation and differentiating beyond price.
Seven passengers flying a round trip into Aspen. Under consideration were two equally rated ARGUS air carriers and aircraft, both operated by highly qualified crews. The least expensive option was an LR35, but the safer option for that particular flight was a Citation Ultra. Why?
While both aircraft seat seven passengers, the Citation Ultra is designed for short field, high altitude airports like Aspen. This simple difference dramatically reduces the risk of operations from this airport.
We need to tactfully raise the question: When safety and profits are opposed, will your charter company make the right choice? Or are they in it for short term gains?
My experience in this business has taught me that the best way to mitigate risk is by educating the consumer. That’s why we want our clients to be as informed as if they were communicating directly with the pilot. At Stratos Jet Charters, we endeavor to mitigate risk by:
- Establishing good communication with and between the client and the carrier
- Presenting appropriate solutions for each travel mission
- Ensuring that the passengers, the aircraft and the operator are a good match
- Possessing an in depth knowledge of the aircraft operator and their safety program
- Understanding what information the operator needs to fly the trip safely
- Setting the client’s expectation of what the aircraft can and cannot do
- Discussing weather concerns, alternate airports and handling preparations on the ground in the event of a diversion
When our company books a flight, we try to format all trip-related information to the operator as if they were speaking directly with you. The only way to truly understand a client’s needs is through up-front, two-way communication, booking the flight from both the operator’s and the client’s perspectives.
We believe that while it is our job as the agent of the customer to help the operator plan a safe flight, it is ultimately the operator’s job to develop and execute the flight plan. For us to provide a good customer experience, we rely on our operators for operational information, and it is their responsibility to mitigate risk and execute their plan. We rely on them to tell us what can and can’t be accomplished safely, then we communicate this back to the client.
We don’t think that subscribing to a third-party safety audit service is a full commitment to safe trip planning. So, in an effort to aid our agents in selecting safe air carriers, our company developed its own air carrier due diligence program that we call our Approved Vendor Program. This pre-screening allows us to provide multiple aircraft options from reputable air carriers in a timely manner.
All of the air carriers in our approved vendor program have demonstrated a pro-active commitment to air charter safety.
- Many of our approved vendors are members of the ACSF.
- Many of our approved vendors have implemented a robust SMS [Safety Management System] program.
- Most of our approved vendors have adopted IS-BAO best practices and guidelines, and all take part in leading third-party safety auditing programs such as WYVERN and ARGUS.
We believe that by restricting our selection of operators to only those that meet strict criteria, we can encourage other air carriers to adopt industry best practices and thereby help to raise the bar for safety and professionalism.
I would like to see the air charter brokerage industry shift towards an agency approach in which the broker understands they have a fiduciary responsibility to the consumer. That’s why I wanted to be in this business; that’s why I started Stratos Jet Charters.
Joel A. Thomas
President and CEO Stratos Jet Charters, Inc.
321 N. Crystal Lake Drive Ste 200
Orlando, Florida 32803