Even if you are not a first-time flyer, it's always helpful to have a guide to the things that matter when booking a private jet. As long as you know what to look for, arranging a private charter flight is going to be a fun and pleasant experience.
We have put together a checklist of questions you should ask before you book a private flight. Read on and find out what is important in terms of private jet safety standards, flight crew's experience or the operator's credentials.
1. Who owns the aircraft?
You don’t need to know which football team the owner supports and whether they prefer pancakes or waffles. But it’s essential that you know the aircraft comes from a legitimate source.
Sometimes this will be an individual owner and run by a management company but, in many cases, it will be a business. The management company operating the aircraft should own a current FAA 135 Operating Certificate. Ask to see theirs, and make sure the name of the company matches up with the name on the certificate.
2. Is the aircraft listed under the operator’s control?
All operating aircraft that are out for charter should be listed by the FAA under the operator’s control. You can ask to see the D-085, which will tell you the aircraft’s tail number. If the operator is legitimate, none of this should be an issue.
3. Have you checked the FAA website?
Visit the official FAA website and enter the aircraft’s tail number. This will show you important information including:
- Aircraft type
- Registered owner
- Manufacture date
4. Is the aircraft insured?
This might seem like something nobody would overlook. But, if your aircraft isn’t insured, this could cause you massive problems if anything goes wrong.
If the operator has insurance, they should have received a Certificate of Insurance. On the certificate, you’ll be able to see the tail number of the aircraft. Ask to see the certificate and make sure the numbers match up.
5. Can the operator insure you?
Once you know the aircraft is insured, you’ll want to find out if the operator can add you and your passengers. Ideally, the operator will add you, your passengers, and (if necessary) your organization as ‘Additionally Insured’. In most cases, this will be quite a straightforward process.
6. Does the aircraft have a history of accidents?
If the aircraft has been in one or more accidents in the past, this is something you’ll want to be aware of. Sometimes, incidents are unavoidable. But, in some situations, it may be an indicator that the aircraft is unsafe. Or that the operators are not taking appropriate precautions.
The National Transportation Safety Board will show you all aircraft accident reports in the last decade.
7. Do they fly internationally?
Paramount Business Jets organizes flights all over the world. But many operators focus on US flights only.
If you want to fly internationally, make sure the operator has experience. This is very important because flights that enter or exit the United States will have to consider aspects such as international and customs laws. Should this be your operator’s first international flight, they may run into problems that could slow down your flights or cause you trouble.
8. If flying internationally, can they help with official forms?
A knowledgeable operator will know exactly which forms you need to fill out. This can include:
- Customs forms
Helpful operators will be able to help with these forms, doing the hard work for you.
9. Have they been audited?
If they’ve been operating for a while, the operator may well have been audited by an independent, third-party organization. This includes a thorough inspection of:
- Maintenance to the aircraft
- Training of pilots and staff
- Operational procedures
Once the audit’s complete, they’ll receive an audit report. You can request to see this for a breakdown of what was found.
10. Do they have any lawsuits?
If an operator – or broker – is involved in a lawsuit, this should be a major red flag. Granted, in some cases, they will not be at fault. But anything which throws doubt over the legitimacy of the aircraft operator should be examined thoroughly.
Make sure the key figures involved with the aircraft don’t have any active lawsuits. And ensure they’re not in litigation.
11. Have they filed for bankruptcy?
If the operator – or broker – has previously filed for bankruptcy, that’s another red flag. It’s possible they’ve previously run a dubious business and may have filed for bankruptcy to get out of it.
If they have previously filed for bankruptcy, ask some tough questions. What’s their current financial situation? Are they requesting money in advance? And, if so, can they guarantee all funds will only go towards your flight?
If their answers don’t instill confidence in you, steer clear. It’s better to err on the side of caution.
12. How long have they been around?
A slick website is no substitute for experience. New operators might offer competitive prices, but what you really want to look for is a proven history of happy customers.
Ask how long they’ve been operating for and search online for positive and negative customer reviews.
13. Has the aircraft been refurbished?
An aircraft model alone won’t give you the full tale of its condition. If the operator has been taking good care of it, the aircraft may have been refurbished – depending on its age.
Ask if and when the aircraft was last refurbished. And inquire about the precise updates. This could include:
- New interiors
- Improved seats
- Updated flight equipment
- Fresh paintwork
14. How big is the crew? Are they frequently trained?
The charter operator will probably have a set crew for each aircraft type. They’ll understand the aircraft’s range, which could impact your trip. For example, crew members are required to have a 10-hour rest period within each 24-hour cycle. So, if you’re hiring a private jet for a long-haul flight, you’ll need to take this into account.
Like most fields, regular training helps keep the crew on top of their game. Feel free to ask how and when they’re trained. For example, if there’s a defibrillator on-board, have they learned how to use it?Here is more information on aircraft crews.
15. What will happen if there’s a maintenance issue?
It’s well worth asking this question, or you may end up stranded. If you’re working with an efficient operator or broker, there should be a backup plan in place. This means that should an issue arise with your aircraft, they’ll have a second aircraft available to you.
If they’re not doing an efficient job, they may pin all their hopes on your first-choice aircraft running. This may mean a costly scramble for you to find a replacement if something goes wrong with the aircraft you picked.
16. Are there surcharges in busy seasons?
Demand for private jets increases during certain dates and seasons. These are sometimes referred to as ‘blackout dates’. For example:
- Christmas holidays
- New Year’s Eve
- July 4th
- Super Bowl
In some cases, operators may charge you extra for booking during these busy periods. But this will never be the case at PBJ.
17. Are there any outstanding citations?
Once again, the FAA is your friend here. Get in touch with the local FAA office to find out if there are any outstanding citations with them. Records are kept for at least the last five years.
Check the FAA site to find out more.