For 70 years BACA - The Air Charter Association has represented the interests of licensed air carriers, professional charter brokers and a whole myriad of specialists working in the charter industry.
For most of those 70 years the association has been fighting a battle to educate the general public about illegal charters, and what the difference is between them and legal commercial air transport with air operator certificate holders.
Chairman Nick Weston says: “To the average traveller, if someone in a pilot's uniform meets you at the bottom of the aircraft steps, then you'll generally take it at face value that everything about that flight is safe, legal and compliant. But those of us in the charter industry all know and recognise that there is a monumental difference between an aircraft being operated by a pilot-manager and one being operated within the boundaries of a professional AOC structure.
“If you are paying for a charter flight, take the simple option, use a professional charter broker and choose a commercial aircraft operating on an AOC.”
BACA believes that considerable confusion arises among both pilots and passengers about where the boundary of legality lies. The association's CEO Dave Edwards continues: “We still need to get away from the term 'grey charter', which implies that, in some way, it's legal. In the vast majority of cases aviation law is very clear and charter flights are either legal or illegal.”
AOC regulations are far stricter than those covering private flight operations. Air crew are subject to more regular training and checks, and the flights take place within a regulatory environment where there are substantially more layers of oversight, fully supported by safety and compliance structures that are designed to minimise risk as much as possible.
AOC holders employ hundreds of thousands of people throughout Europe and worldwide, providing well paid, skilled roles across all sections of society. An illegal charter flight not only risks lives, it risks jobs and livelihoods in a sector which complies with the law and operates professionally and honourably.
BACA is campaigning with regulators throughout Europe on strong enforcement action to be taken against those people breaking the law and is spearheading a fresh campaign to help educate the travelling public about the dangers of illegal aircraft charter.
The association's membership has hit a record high of more than 250 companies, increasing significantly in the last year as BACA established itself as the global voice of the air charter industry.
At the end of 2018 the number of members stood at 236 but the first three months of 2019 has seen a rapid influx of new members, a rise that the association attributes to its active stance on illegal charters combined with a strong portfolio of events. BACA recently held its annual Spring lunch which saw the largest number of guests ever in attendance. The situation bodes well for the association as 2019 marks 70 years since it was first established and it is holding a special event to mark the occasion on 4 July.
Weston adds: “This is a significant step forward for the association. We always knew that 250 members was an objective we would like to meet but to achieve it in our 70th year is very satisfying. We are working hard to ensure that the authorities are aware of our stance on illegal charters, and we have seen some significant progress in combating the issue. The more members we have, the greater the global influence we have when speaking with the relevant authorities.”