As exhilarating as flying privately is, do not book your chartered flight without first asking some pertinent questions. And these should be about more than the amenities and attention you’ll receive while on board. Although these two things matter, chartered flights have more than just luxury going for them.
They also involve stringent safety and operational procedures. And then there’s the insurance and the FAA regulations to name a few. These, too, matter, so here are nine pertinent questions about them you should ask.
1. Who Owns or Operates the Jet Company?
This should be the first question you ask before booking a private jet rental. As you probably know, the company operating the said jet is the single most important factor when it comes to aircraft. And here’s why.
The operator procures the planes, runs and maintains them, implements safety procedures, hires flight crew, and adheres to government regulations, among other things. And when finding more about the company, first find out whether it is, indeed, a legitimate business entity.
If it is, it should have a valid FAA certificate. In addition, the entity’s business name and that on the certificate should match. With that said, rarely will you find a crooked carrier. What you’ll find, instead, are a few unregistered ones. Nevertheless, keep away from them.
2. Is the Aircrafts’ Tail Number Listed?
If the FAA only issued operating certificates to legitimate carriers, rogue ones would have a field day. They’d simply operate under fake credentials whose validity you wouldn’t be able to ascertain. And, anyway, how many passengers would bother to do so, seeing that the process would be long and tedious?
For this reason, the FAA goes beyond just issuing certificates. After operators meet all its requirements, the administration issues them a DO85 document, verifying their aircraft is authorized to fly. In the document, you’ll find the aircraft’s tail number.
3. Can the FAA Confirm the Operators Details?
Seeing an operator’s FAA certificate and D085 document is one thing, but verifying this information is another. This brings us to the question: How can you verify an operator’s details? The answer to this question lies on the FAA’s website.
Here, the administration first lists the names of all legitimate operators throughout the country. For instance, if the company offers private jet charter flights, the FAA lists all aircraft registered under the company, their dates of manufacture, and their tail numbers. What’s more, you can search this database using only a plane’s tail number from a jet charter company.
4. Has Any of the Operator’s Aircraft Crashed Recently?
Although planes rarely crash, the sad fact is that they still do. With that said, some operators crash more planes than others, speaking volumes about their safety and maintenance record. These you want to stay away from.
After all, when you book a private jet hire, you want to travel with an operator possessing an impeccable safety record. But where can you find such crucial information? The place to go is the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) website.
Here, you’ll find a database of accidents and incidents going back almost 50 years. And that’s not all. You’ll also find all reports related to any incidents or accidents occurring within the last decade. The second place to go is to the jet company. While a reputable organization willingly volunteers its safety record, one not so reputable does everything to hide it.
As well as finding out information about crashes, try to find out any additional safety points about the company. What safety programs are they members of? How are the pilots vetted? If the charter company is reliable, they should have all of this listed on their website. A good example of this can be seen with Paramount Business Jets whose safety page outlines everything they do to guarantee safety, which includes being a member of ARGUS and being compliant with the FAA and DOT protocols.
5. How Many FAA Citations Does the Operator Have?
When digging up an operator’s past, don’t focus on only the NTSB’s website. That a company has no crashed planes in its history doesn’t reflect on its safety or maintenance record. In fact, the record could be wanting, making the company’s aircraft a crash-waiting-to-happen.
To sniff such companies out, you must first unearth FAA citations they’ve received for failing to adhere to the administration’s regulations. But unlike getting the operators name and aircraft’s tail number, this is simpler said than done. You must drive to the nearest FAA office. Here, you’ll find citations dating back five years.
6. Has the FAA Audited the Operator?
After digging into the citations, now focus on whether the FAA has audited the company. Why is this important? For the administration to audit an operator, that operator must have failed to meet critical FAA requirements. These include how to train staff, maintain aircraft, conduct operational procedures, or ensure passenger safety.
An FAA audit, therefore, forces operators into compliance. With that said, some audits are beneficial and keep the operators on their toes. But whatever the reason for the audit may be, compliant operators will readily show you a copy of their audit report. In contrast, those keeping their reports secret have something to hide, so keep away from them.
7. How Many Lawsuits Target the Operator?
With the FAA citations and audits out of the way, delve into the operator’s legal history. How many lawsuits are aimed at them? And who’s suing them? In particular, pay close attention to the nature of the lawsuits. If serious allegations are leveled against the operator, walk away.
But the one lawsuit to look out for is one the operator files in court – a bankruptcy suit. Has the company filed for bankruptcy before? If so, where do its finances currently stand? Go for companies whose books are in order, for with them, you can expect good, prompt service. Those whose books are not in order will spend every dime you give them to settle outstanding debts. As such, they’ll have nothing left with which to serve you.
8. Is the Operator Insured?
With all your digging, never fail to scrutinize an operator’s insurance. Why should this matter, you ask? Doesn’t the law demand all planes to have insurance? That it does. But, double-check just in case. And while you’re at it, don’t fall for the “we have insurance” bit.
Ask to see a valid certificate of insurance instead. On it, you should clearly see the operator’s name and the aircraft’s tail number. Also, different levels of insurance exist, so inquire whether the insurance matches the coverage you need.
In addition, know some shrewd operators tag a hidden insurance fee onto their flight price. So, besides scanning the certificate of insurance for errors, analyze your bill for the hidden fee. If you find it, don’t take it while lying down. Raise the issue with the company immediately and stay on their tail until they remove it. If they don’t, or if the operator hides insurance information from you, find another carrier.
9. Does the Insurance Cover Passengers?
That the plane has insurance is all well and good. But does it cover you, the passenger? This is an important question to ask, for your life depends on the answer. Remember, when you get injured during the flight, or if the carrier loses your luggage, the insurance covers both you and your belongings.
So, how do you know whether you’re insured? It’s easy. Besides handing you a copy of the insurance certificate, the operator should gladly provide documentation proving they’ve insured both you and your fellow passengers. On the documentation, look for the term “additional insured,” hinting you’re insured.
Before you book a private jet rental, ask about who owns or operates the company. Also find out if the aircraft’s tail number is listed, ensuring the FAA confirms the details. Next, find out whether the operator’s planes have recently crashed. In addition, inquire about the number of FAA citations, FAA audits, and lawsuits the operator has. Finally, ask whether the operator has insurance.