What is a Charter Flight?

What is a Charter Flight

Charter flights, scheduled flights, commercial flights?

There is, in fact, a vast difference between the types of flights that you can opt to take, and it’s more than just a word. Today we’re taking a closer look at one of the most common questions we hear – what is a charter flight?

What is a Charter Flight?

Generally, in aviation, you’ll come across two, perhaps three, descriptions for flights. You’ll hear some flights referred to as ‘charter’ flights and others referred to as either ‘commercial’, ‘regular’ or ‘scheduled’ flights.

But what is the difference?

On the face of it, it is actually pretty simple.

If we think in simple terms, ‘scheduled’ or ‘commercial’ flights can be equated to buses or trains. They run at a regular and set time over a given period, according to a schedule (hence the name). The time between each service doesn’t matter. As long as there is a recurring pattern on a given date and time, they are generally considered a scheduled service.

Travelers embarking on a scheduled service have limited flexibility. They will generally have to pick the ‘best fit’ regarding both the time they want to travel and the destination.

And what about ‘charter’ flights?

Well, if ‘regular’ flights can be equated to a train or a bus, a charter flight could be equated to a taxi… But that would be doing it a disservice. Depending on the aircraft, a private airborne limousine might be a better equivalence. 

Charter flights are usually commissioned on an ad-hoc basis. Whoever is commissioning the charter gets to decide pretty much everything about the operation. When it departs, where it goes, when it lands, often they’ll even be able to dictate what is served as an onboard meal! 

A charter flight is not a regular service as such. It might have a pattern, but it is an aircraft that is utilized in its entirety according to a client’s requests. Be that an individual, a company, or even another airline!

The Types of Charter Flights

Under the umbrella of ‘charter flights’, there are yet further distinctions. Let’s take a look at some of the terms commonly used: –

Public Charter

There is a chance that you have actually been on a charter flight.

Public charters are nearly always offered by airlines with spare capacity. Often airlines (particularly low-cost airlines, who rely on the full capacity to make a profit) will offer out a block booking of seats on one of their scheduled services to travel agents or in partnership with a cruise company.

While the flight actually takes place on a scheduled service, that block of seats has been specifically booked to cater to the needs of another company. They may specify different requirements for ‘their’ passengers. Still, users can expect to travel with ‘regular’ members of the public too.

Private Charter

This is a pretty exclusive type of jet charter. It is a service offered by premium business jet operators.

This type of travel is where an individual, a group, or a company rents the aircraft in its entirety. The size of the aircraft will be dictated by the number of passengers. The destination, the point of departure, and the time the flight leaves are entirely at the client’s discretion. This is a popular choice with sports teams.

The entire cost of the flight will be charged to the individual client. 

Affinity Booking

This is a little similar to a private charter, except each traveler pays for their seats. Travelers who use this service might be part of a sports club, a society, or a large organization. The airplane is hired, and then seats are made available to be purchased only for approved people. 

The key difference between this type of charter and a public charter is that with affinity, a regular member of the public cannot buy a ticket on the aircraft.

Cargo Charter

Airplanes are chartered for all sorts of reasons. One obvious benefit of an airplane is that it gets to places really fast. This makes it the ideal form of transport if you need to transport goods quickly.

You’ll find cargo flights are used for items that can’t travel on regular flights or that people may need urgently. This could include food and supplies, machine parts, or even a heart for a transplant… you definitely don’t want that to go missing on a scheduled service!

Are Charter Flights Expensive?

Depending on the type you opt for, charter flights can be expensive. 

But that said, there are some incredible discounts to be had, particularly on ’empty leg’ sectors where operators offer a significant reduction in costs as the airplane may flying ’empty’.

The Advantages to Booking a Charter Flight

It sounds pretty great, right? But what are the advantages? Well, here are a few to think about: –

Fly when you want to

Ever had to be up before the sun to catch the ‘red eye’? Or lost half a day of vacation as you’ve arrived in the middle of the night? With private charters, that is a thing of the past!

No Crowds, no hassle

Checking in simultaneously as the rest of the world for a scheduled flight can be a real drag. Airports are busy and bustling. As a general rule, private charter travelers can expect to check in at a private terminal. It is much more sedate.

Private jets are extremely nice

Have you ever seen the inside of a Gulfstream 500? If not, you are in for a treat. Unparalleled comfort! 

You choose your traveling companions

We’ve all been there. Who gets the armrest? If your’ seat mate’ happens to be a 300 lbs guy, you’re out of luck. On a charter aircraft, you choose who is sitting next to you on that business trip.

How Do You Charter a Flight?

Chartering a flight is actually easier than you think. The first step is to inquire and see what a professional and established private jet charter company can offer. You might be pleasantly surprised at how affordable it is, especially if you have company. Most charter companies are highly professional and will be happy to answer any questions.

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