Why Pay For Carry-On? Charter The Friendly Skies (Transportation Special)

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Pardon Me. Do You Have Any Grey Poupon? Air Charter is an increasingly important transportation option for many touring teams with commercial aviation facing increasing delays and malfunctions. It can also include carbon offset options. Photo by Shutterstock / Air Partner

Today’s commercial airline industry itself may be the best form of advertising, promoting and marketing for chartering aircraft, especially if one needs expedient, reliable and hassle-free air transport. With extreme weather and dramatic names like “atmospheric river” and “Arctic bomb cyclones” wreaking havoc on air travel; as well as detestable added fees for the “privilege” of choosing a coach seat with no legroom, carrying your own luggage, eating inedible airline food and spotty Wi-Fi; along with the possibility of a system-wide computer outage disrupting thousands of flights, as happened in January, there’s more than a few reasons to charter your own airplane.

“Anyone who’s traveled reasonably within the last 12 months has been affected by that,” says Simon Moore, SVP of Commercial Jets for Air Partner when asked about the difficulties associated with commercial air travel. “Myself and just about every member of my family who’s flown within the U.S. and overseas has been affected by cancellations or reschedules or delays in the last 12 months. I think it’s greatly damaged people’s confidence in being able to get somewhere and trust the carrier completely at a time when they’re also increasing their costs.”

As one might expect in the current aviation market, air charters are up significantly.
“We’ve seen really astronomical growth throughout the pandemic,” says Air Charter Service’s Mario Nicholas, National Director of Business Development—Media & Entertainment. He says all sectors of his firm, which includes private jets, commercial jets and cargo, have seen such growth. That includes touring bands.

“We saw more artists, perhaps not at the level of chartering, chartering now because their [teams] saw the value in keeping them isolated and away from germs and commercial terminals,” Nicholas says.

Another advantage is that charter flights aren’t easily canceled., Moore says. “You can’t just cancel a flight if you pay for a charter, whereas on a scheduled service flight, as part of the terms, they can just say, ‘Yep, that’s it. We’re calling it a day. We’ll either put you on the next available flight or you need to find a flight somewhere else.’ We don’t cancel … a lot of times weather systems move through fairly quickly. You’ve got a higher degree of flexibility on a charter, whereas a commercial carrier will cancel.”

It’s not just artists using air charter companies, it’s also gear and production teams. “In our private jet division, we can fly up to 19 passengers,” Nicholas says. “Anything beyond 19 passengers is handled by our commercial jets division. And then for anything such as equipment and very large gear, that’s handled by our cargo division and we work together seamlessly.”

Both Moore and Nicholas say they have chartered flights for major entertainers, their teams and their production.

“There was a Madonna tour,” Moore says. “It was probably about eight years ago. It was out of Dallas going to Canada. It was on a large wide body Boeing 767 and had about 100 or 150 crew members and in the belly was a lot of sound equipment and other props.”
For charter flights at that echelon, the cost can be six or perhaps seven figures, especially for major tours, but there are much cheaper options in the low five figures for shorter jaunts.

“We have folks who charter aircrafts from New York City to somewhere in New England that could be maybe in the $20s or $18K,” Nicholas says, depending on the size of the aircraft. “In some cases, you do save money. Instead of buying how many first-class or business-class tickets, you might be able to charter a light jet and get folks to a performance less expensively.”

Moore adds, “a small aircraft could be anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 depending on how long the flight is.”

While one of the biggest rubs against air travel is the massive carbon footprint of air transport, both Air Partner and Air Charter Service offer carbon offset programs that can ameliorate the ecological impact.

“Essentially you’ll indicate at the time of contracting that you would like to be enrolled in the carbon offset program,” Nicholas says. “We’re able to then purchase credits and then run a report on what it is we are contributing.”

He says his company charges 0.5% of the charter cost for the carbon offsets.