Los Angeles-based Exquisite Air Charter has added an extra layer to its compliance by creating a programme for identifying illegal charters while also establishing an internal mandatory reporting process of suspected illegal operations. Increased demand is causing a spike in illegal operations that expose everyone on the aircraft, and even people on the ground, to potential risk.
Furthermore, high demand has resulted in an influx of first time travellers using private charter services, who may lack an understanding of the essential safety standards and documentation needed to demonstrate compliance with industry-wide practices. This poses an opportunity for illegal charters, also called grey operations, to flood the market with unethical practices.
“While there are established awareness campaigns from The Air Charter Association in the UK and NBAA in the US to educate stakeholders about the hazards of illegal charters, we wanted to add tangible value for our customers with a thorough internal review process that secures working only with reputable, experienced and trustworthy private aviation operators worldwide,” says CEO Rena Davenport. “When a client comes to us to charter an aircraft, they want to have the guarantee that we have a comprehensive understanding of the industry and are providing reliable and safe options. This newly developed programme allows us to go through the appropriate expert-vetted checks, complementing the work of regular safety organisations like ARGUS and Wyvern, to ultimately avoid operators and owners that are offering illegal charters while doing as much as we can to keep the skies and our customers safe.”
Exquisite will go through an internal checklist to qualify a flight as legal before dispatching it, looking after crew qualifications, the aircraft registration, the air operator's certificate, the registration jurisdiction and, most importantly, establishing an internal mandatory reporting process of suspected illegal charters.
A common red flag for identifying illegal charters is extraordinarily low prices. They often run the risk of using aircraft that lack proper maintenance and crews that are not qualified to fly them, two main safety risk factors. Other safety issues might include improper weight and balance, which can cause an incident or accident. Furthermore, they avoid paying taxes and aviation authority certification fees.
Davenport concludes: “As part of our efforts, we will continue educating our customers on the importance of chartering legal aircraft options, while actively verifying an owner or operator's credentials and reporting when appropriate to authorities. This is in the best interest of all involved, operators, brokers, suppliers, customers and authorities, not only for the obvious safety concerns but also for the business and reputational health of the private aviation industry worldwide.”