Private Jet Charter Safety: Why Not to Book on Price Alone
What if the next time you stepped on a jet, you had no doubt everything possible had been done to ensure your safety on that flight? In an era of what we call ‘Jet Marts,’ our agents sometimes get calls from potential clients saying they’ve got another quote, and it’s cheaper. That’s usually when we explain that vendor or that aircraft might not be a safe choice, because when it comes to private jet charter safety, we want our clients to know when they step on a jet, we’ve recommended it because it’s safe, not because it’s cheap.
What happens when you book private jets based on price alone?
It leads to unsafe flying.
1. Unsafe operators.
Low-cost charter brokers can offer greatly reduced prices by ignoring critical safety and maintenance regulations required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT). There’s a real risk that this kind of broker won’t perform due diligence for safety.
2. Unsafe aircraft.
By focusing on price, bargain basement brokers don’t always consider how they can reduce your risk by choosing the most appropriate aircraft for the route and/or conditions. For example, when a man was trying to fly his son’s family home during a severe snowstorm because their commercial flight had been cancelled, he told us he’d been given a much lower quote for a Piper Saratoga, and he was going to book that option. When we saw the icy weather advisory for that region at flight level, we told them how icing affects an aircraft’s ability to generate lift, and how it would be safest to wait out the storm instead of putting his son’s family at risk. In the end, he booked a Citation CJ3 with us, and they all arrived safely. On another occasion, a group of seven was flying to Aspen, and they were considering two equally safe air carriers, both operated by highly qualified crews. An LR55 would have been cheaper based on positioning, but we encouraged them to consider a Citation Ultra, designed specifically for short-field, high altitude airports, just like Aspen’s. It might appear to be a simple difference, but it dramatically reduced their risk, and bargain basement brokers don’t always have the commitment or expertise to pursue that extra margin of safety.
What happens when you book with safety as a priority?
You expand your margin of safety.
1. We have our very own Approved Vendor Program (AVP)
to identify and endorse Part 135 air carriers that meet our private jet charter safety standards—the strictest in the air charter industry, instead of relying solely on third-party safety audits. Our approved vendors must:
- Be ARGUS Gold or Wyvern Registered.
- Pass our audits, conducted by ARGUS or Wyvern
- Have had no accidents or major enforcement actions taken against them in the past 7 years
- Must not have had major turnover in key personnel in the past two years
- Must have $25 million minimum liability insurance on turboprop aircraft and $50 million on all other private aircraft.
- Have two pilots on all flights.
2. We choose aircraft age and performance carefully
Older aircraft can be just as safe. They do have older parts that can lead to unexpected maintenance issues, and older avionics, where more modern aircraft provide much better situational awareness and relieve stress so that the pilot can make better more informed flying decisions. Again, older aircraft can be safe; they just require a more careful eye and managers who make safety and routine maintenance a priority–which is why we only work with vendors who meeting industry’s highest standards. Selecting the right aircraft for the mission is quite possibly the easiest way to expand your margin of safety and to get the greatest combination of safety and flying experience. It’s often a nominal price difference for a significantly improved flying experience. Factors our brokers consider include:
- Runway performance
- Range storage capacity
- Creature comforts (leg and shoulder room), ability to move about the cabin all should be considered in the booking process. Just because it has 7 seats doesn’t necessarily mean you should pack 7 passengers in the plane. Step up to a slightly larger cabin and get a substantial increase in your travel experience.
3. We’re one of the few jet charter brokers recognized or authorized by industry-leading organizations, including:
ACANA (Air Charter Association of North America), comprised of the industry’s most reputable brokers, which adhere to the highest standards of integrity, ethics and professionalism. Wyvern and ARGUS (Aviation Research Group), leading third-party, independent safety auditors that specialize in conducting on-site safety audits. In fact, Stratos was one of the first jet charter brokers to be certified by the new ARGUS Registered and Certified Broker Programme. BUT, not all ARGUS/Wyvern-participating operators are equal. Some operators are ARGUS gold, but have 145 Repair Stations (having their own maintenance facility lowers cost for routine maintenance and creates a positive culture of safety, whereas others foster a ‘wait till it breaks and fix it’ approach.) At Stratos, we’re obsessed with our clients’ safety. We hope we inspire other air charter brokers to do the same, and we hope you see why it’s important to choose reputable operators and the appropriate aircraft. Are you looking for a broker that relentlessly pursues private jet charter safety? Stratos agents are trained to recommend only approved vendors and flights that expand your margin of safety. Our booking agents are available 24/7—(888) 593-9066 (toll free) or request a quote online. Photos courtesy unsplash.com’s Mark Astoff (feature), Gabriel Garcia Marengo (above).