Industry & News

Hurricane Sandy & Winter Storm Private Jet Flights

We’ve all seen the news; photos of flooded streets, crowded airports, hanging cranes, and utter chaos across the east coast. Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm to hit the northeast in a lifetime.

As a result of Sandy, the power in many suburbs of New York still remains out over one week after Sandy’s decapitation. More relevant to our business, over 18,000 commercial flights were cancelled because of Sandy. All of the New York area airports were shut down. Furthermore, Teterboro, the main private jet airport for New York City, as well as LaGuardia, were both flooded, trapping aircraft on tarmacs and in hangars for days.

Whenever there is a nor’easter, hurricane, volcanic eruption, or nearly any type of natural disaster or severe weather system within or near North America, flights get cancelled. When flights get cancelled, our phones beginning ringing off the hook almost immediately.  About 90% of the calls we receive during these times are from displaced airline passengers who don’t proceed with our services once they realize the difference in the cost of flying private vs. flying commercial. The remaining 10% however are legitimate users of business jets, whether for all of their flights or only some of their flights.

When we get a call from a legitimate business jet user during one of these splurges, the question arises… “Are business jets a secret weapon against inclement weather and airport conditions?” The answer to this is that “it depends.”

In the midst of Hurricane Sandy, New York was imperiled by wind gusts in excess of 70 mph. In a situation like that, no plane will fly in the area. ALL flights will be cancelled, whether they are private or commercial, as was the case with Sandy. Some private jet passengers will be upset by this fact given how much they’re paying, but the fact of that matter is that aircraft can only operate safely under more favorable meteorological conditions.

When airports begin to open however, private jet passengers will be the first to get in and out. While JFK and LaGuardia were still closed in New York after Sandy passed, the White Plains airport opened up. Private jet providers were able to route nearly all NYC traffic through White Plains while nearly all commercial passengers were still grounded. Likewise, when one part of the country is hit by a large storm, an airline’s flights will be delayed all over the country as a result of the chain system that makes up an airline’s route network. For private jet flights however, whose schedules are not defined by a pre-determined and inflexible schedule, that is just not the case.

As you can see, when it isn’t safe to fly, private jets will not get you there. When conditions get marginally better however, a private jet can get you in/out of the storm zone days after a commercial carrier’s service resumes. The general aviation industry has been an invaluable tool for businesses, individuals, and even rescue operations over the years in offering service to/from storm and disaster zones days before commercial carriers could do so.

Industry & News

“Phantom Aircraft,” is that a Halloween costume?

It happens all the time, a client calls us and requests a price quote for a trip in the distant future. We then go ahead and render a formal proposal, only to be thrown back a quote purportedly provided by a competitor that is not only less than our quote, but less than the operating cost of the plane!

Is there some secret to get private jets for less that we’re missing? As a jet charter buyer, I know you want to believe that the answer is yes. Unfortunately for everyone however, the answer is no. What we’re up against are known within the business as “phantom quotes,” and they are a significant burden to the industry and the unsuspecting consumer.

When a consumer requests a quote from an ethical charter provider, said provider invests a decent amount of time into confirming the availability of an aircraft (or several aircraft) well suited for the for the trip, and then works up a formal proposal that includes all relevant costs. The entire quoting process generally takes anywhere from 30 minutes to about three hours depending on several factors. When you have a solid quote like this, you can rest assured that if you book that quote [when the aircraft is still available], the specific aircraft it is based on is immediately locked down for your trip and you’re good to go.

There are many private jet charter brokerage firms that will provide you with phantom quotes, however. The idea here is that you’re given an offer that is meant to be lower than the legitimate competition. These quotes are often generated within about 5 minutes since no real aircraft is being sourced for them. If you then book one of these trips, you actually have no real aircraft reserved for your flight even though you believe you do. The “phantom quote” private jet charter provider will then start to try and source an aircraft long after you allegedly confirmed the trip. A lot of time is saved this way since the leg-work is only being done for booked trips as opposed to most requests. If the provider scores a great deal for themselves after you’ve already booked, then you’re set. If they don’t however, you’ll likely get a last minute call explaining that “the owner is using the plane you booked,” “there was a mechanical failure,” etc. All of which could hypothetically happen with a legitimate reservation (with odds below 1%), but in this instance are falsified to lead to the statement that you either need to fork over more cash, or release the reservation for a refund. In the end, you’ll likely spend significantly more than you would have spent with a reputable provider to begin with, and will waste a lot more time doing it.

If you think this is a rare practice, think again, it unfortunately is quite common. A few red flags that you have a phantom quote are the following:

  • Your quote seems oddly inexpensive.
  • Your aircraft is offered to you as “XXX aircraft type, OR SIMILAR” (beware of “or similar”)
  • Your quote was given to you almost instantly.
  • You ask for a tail number and are told to wait.
  • You are only provided with stock aircraft photos.

There are a few legitimate reasons a private jet charter company wouldn’t have your tail number immediately or can’t give you photos of the “exact” plane you’re flying, most of which involve the use of “floating fleets” of aircraft which is a legitimate and cost-saving practice. These are still signs that you could be being swindled however.

Many times have I sat across the desk from the CEOs of other reputable private jet charter providers trying to confront this issue. As a consumer, it is important for you to know exactly how your flights are being sourced and to ensure that when you book a flight, a specific aircraft really is booked for you. The real lesson is to work with a company who you trust. I can tell you that you sincerely do have a good selection of trustworthy private jet charter providers who are worthy of your business; there are many out there who are not, however.