Illegal charters, new users of charter, insurance issues for Part 135 operators, and Covid-19 policies and procedures were among the topics discussed during a nearly hour-long webinar Wednesday titled “NATA Air Charter Roundtable: Forging Ahead.” In terms of flight activity for operators and providers, they noted steadily increasing demand for Part 135 flights, accounting for between 40 percent and 60 percent of the flying volume they saw the same time a year ago.
Some of those flights are being filled by passengers new to charter, operators said, although it’s not clear yet whether they will become repeat charter customers. “In our pilot feedback surveys, I’m seeing comments…that it was the people’s first time on a private jet [and] they loved the experience,” a webinar participant said. “So a lot of these I believe are new entrants to the market. Hopefully, they stay with us.”
Operators and providers reported that they are taking Covid-19 precautions such as requiring crews to wear personal protective equipment such as masks, disinfecting aircraft between flights, and having passengers submit preflight health questionnaires. In some instances, passengers are also being asked to bring their own snacks and drinks for their flights. “I think the more confidence we can collectively provide to the market, the better we’re all going to be,” said NATA senior v-p Ryan Waguespack.
Waguespack also updated participants on activities regarding illegal charters, noting the FAA has “amped up” its efforts to raise awareness. “They’ve gone out extensively and been educating all the FSDOs on illegal operations, what to look for, protocols, [and] processes because we all know a lot of these complaints come through the FSDOs,” he said.
He also opened the floor to participants to learn if there were issues they are facing that NATA could address. Jet Linx Aviation director of safety Sheryl Clarke, a featured participant in the webinar, said she’d like to see NATA and the charter industry collectively address getting credit from insurers and insurance brokers for having measures in place—such as SMS—that offset risk and thus lower the rates they pay for insurance. “I think we have to move in that direction or it’s going to become prohibitively expensive,” Clarke said.