While browsing the web you may have come across the term “charter flight?” Perhaps you’ve known about it and that it exists but were not very sure what it means or the difference to a normal flight? Well, a charter flight is typically a method to get cheaper tickets to resorts. How this actually works and things you may want to consider is part of this myCiity Fundamentals guide.
What is a charter flight?
The original meaning of charter flights (also known as “air taxi” or “ad-hoc flights”) is basically the exact opposite of standard airline flights in that the latter works according to a schedule. Everything in their operations is planned including the route, the network, the frequency of the times the route is covered along with fixed departure times and destinations. The charter flight, however, is a flight that can be carried out at any time and for any destination. There is no set timetable as with scheduled flights. These types of flights are referenced to as non-scheduled flights in the industry lingo. They are, however, regulated and require certification from the respective national regulating body for air travel.
Generally speaking, charter flights are offered and executed by tour operators who rent the capacity of an airplane so that they can offer their customers a suitable holiday package to a specific destination at a given time. These offerings are typically sold together with other services by the tour operators and are typically all-inclusive deals that encompass the organization of the trip through hotel and activities. There is also an exception to tour operators offering a charter flight, in that standard airlines, from time to time, also offer charter flights for a specific happening. In other words, someone wants to rent a whole airplane on demand, or a national carrier designates a specific plane for a national team to fly in at a specific time. This is considered a charter flight as well.
How do I know if a flight is a charter or not?
Initially, it is fairly difficult to spot a charter flight. There are no real set regulations or rules that govern how charter flights are described, numbered, or indicated that it is a charter flight. Often you’ll find very high flight numbers such as “99xzy.”
If you really want to be sure whether or not you are on a charter flight or not, then you need to check the airlines’ flight schedule along with the flight number mentioned above. If the flight number appears within the airlines’ flight schedule then it is a standard scheduled flight. If not, then most likely it is a charter flight.
However, you do not need to really concern yourself with whether or not you are booking a charter flight. In most instances, flights are standard unless you are booking specifically with a tour operator for a specific holiday. The service standards both on the ground and on the plane are also very similar to scheduled flights, with a primary difference being that charter flights typically automatically include a piece of checked luggage, which many standard airlines no longer include in basic fare classes.
What airlines offer charter flights?
In the past decades (the ’80s and 90’s) charter flights were very large as airlines focused on this form of business to fulfill demand and capacity. However that number has dwindled significantly, but you’ll still find companies like TUIfly, NetJets, Bulgarian Air Charter or Condor that primarily work based on charter flights. As you read above, often these charter flights are in combination with a packaged tour geared at tourists that want an all-inclusive holiday pack at a specific destination during a given time.
The reason the number has dwindled over the years is that air travel has become accessible across the globe and the demand for flights and routes to a variety of destinations is often now so high and spans large networks that airlines have shifted to scheduled flights for nearly every route.
There is a small exception to the above statement, that at times and for certain destinations, airlines may also move a small capacity of seats within an aircraft at a specific time to a specific destination and offer those seats exclusively to tour operators who are then able to offer their holiday package to their customers. Any remaining seats from this contingency will be reallocated to the standard flight schedule. Utilizing this method allows large carriers like Delta, Emirates or Lufthansa to, at any given time, offer charter flights within their standard flight schedule on specified routes to fill their airplanes to maximum capacity.
Hence, despite chartering not being a common practice today, it is still used and at times intertwine.
Am I able to book a charter flight?
If a tour operator offers a specific holiday package, then yes. We as the public only have access to these types of charters anyhow, unless you personally charter a private airplane as an alternative. Typically if you would like to be on a charter flight, you’ll have to book through a tour operator that includes other services such as a hotel. There is an interesting catch to the charter flight via a tour operator in that if a tour operator like TUIfly fails to fill a plane in a speedy fashion, they may begin selling remaining seats as flight only tickets as last-minute offers. These offers are then often available at a very low price and are typically available on the official websites of such mentioned tour operators. So make sure you browse them from time to time.
On top of this, tour operators that charter capacity within a scheduled flight do similar deals. If there are seats available then either they will be sold cheaply as flight only, they will be shifted back to the airline (resold) for their contingency, to offer normal tariffs again, or sold to other online travel agencies to lure in customers with low prices in order to fill the plane.
What you need to consider about charter flights
The tour operator is your point of contact should you book a charter flight as part of a holiday package. Should any problems occur, then they are the ones responsible to help you out. Let’s take the example of your flight is canceled, the airline on a standard flight will need to reschedule you on a replacement flight within their network. On charter flights, however, or seats within a standard airline that have been chartered, the travel agent is responsible and hence they must be contacted for any rebooking or refunds. This also includes any issues you may have concerning baggage delay or loss of baggage. The agency/tour operator holds all responsibility, not the airline.
If you plan on booking a charter flight with a tour operator, know the above, and know that if any irregularities occur such as the need for rebooking or luggage problems (such as redelivery, etc), well this is not as easy as it is with a standard flight. Remember that chartered flights are typically flights to a specific destination at a specific time and hence there may not be any other direct flight for some time. It can become very cumbersome for tour operations as they then need to figure out flight combinations to get their customers to where they need to go along with all the other details. This though should be of no concern to you as in most cases nothing happens and you are able to enjoy a flight along with a nice holiday package to a destination that a standard airline normally would not cover.
Closing thoughts on charter flights
The original concept of charter flights was great in that it offered flexibility to tour operators to reach destinations and places normally not on a scheduled flight along with the additional services that are typically offered. However today, chartered flights are not as frequent. Either way, should you find a last minute charter deal you’ll often get it for a steal should you be a bit flexible in regards to destination and time.
- Charter flights are non-standard flights that are not scheduled in a regular airline network
- They are typically offered by tour operators or company with on-demand flight services
- In order to find out whether a flight is a charter or not, you’ll need to check the flight number against the airlines’ scheduled flight time table
- Charter flights still happen within large carriers for specific destinations
- The travel agency or tour operator is your point of contact for all issues regarding your travels, even if you fly on a large carrier as a chartered flight
- The majority of tickets you find online, with the exception of charter specific websites are standard airline tickets
We hope that now you have a better understanding of the word charter, what a charter flight means and the difference of it versus a standard scheduled flight with any known carrier.
Charter specific airlines:
Bulgarian Air Charter
Eastern Air Lines
Grossmann Jet Service
Miami Air International
Omni Air International
Qatar Amiri Flight
Small Planet Airlines
Vision Air International
World Atlantic Airlines
Traditional carriers that at times include charter services:
Air Atlanta Icelandic
Blue Panorama Airlines
Frontier Flying Service
Kelowna Flightcraft Air Charter
Kenn Borek Air
LOT Polish Airlines
Miami Air International
Thomas Cook Airlines