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What is an Air Charter?

By Eric Tallberg
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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Nearly everyone has endured the horror show that is euphemistically described as airline travel. The purchase of an airline ticket is simply the purchase of a seat on a scheduled flight from one large airport, miles from home or business, to another large airport, even further away from the actual destination. For this reason, among many others, numerous flyers, business flyers especially, favor chartering a private aircraft.

The hiring of an entire airplane, plus crew, for the duration of the time that the aircraft is in the air from point A to point B, is known as an air charter. There are, obviously, several advantages to chartering an airplane. Most charter planes are smaller than commercial airliners allowing travel from smaller airports closer to home, and able to land closer to the actual destination.

Recently, the air charter option has evolved into air taxi service. This essentially involves calling for an airplane to pick up passengers, or cargo, at the local municipal airport, and delivering the passengers or cargo to another municipal airport. As one will take a taxi cab across town, it’s now possible to take a private plane halfway across the country.

One major downside to hiring an air charter is, of course, cost. Depending on the duration of the flight, the price of fuel, the size and type of aircraft chartered, and number of crew, expenses can be significant. This expense also factors into air-shipment arrangements.

This is where the commercial airlines have a distinct advantage over air charter companies. It costs the typical air shipper, or passenger far less to purchase a few square feet of cargo space, or a seat than it does to charter a private jet. If, however, enough passengers are available to split the cost of, for instance, an eight-to-fourteen seat charter plane, the cost per passenger is, in many cases, manageable. This same formula holds true for air-cargo, as well.

Many air charter firms are, in reality, managers of privately owned airplanes. These management companies charter these private aircraft to offset costs of ownership. This management/ownership option is advantageous for those looking to charter a private jet in that it creates price and service competition.

Air charter service became a viable option with the introduction of the Lear Jet in the 1960s. These small jets, aimed at private owners, were relatively inexpensive to maintain, and capable of operating from smaller airports. Suddenly, a whole new aspect to air travel was introduced. Air ambulances, air freight services, and passenger charter services are now an integral factor in the commercial air industry.

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