Read the About Us page on the business’s Web site. That page should list the company executives and provide a history of the company. The company history will reveal how long the company has been in business and may reveal management stability or instability. If the information isn’t provided on the Web site, call the company and ask those questions. If the answers aren’t forthcoming, find another company.
The next question to ask is whether the company is a charter operator or a charter broker. Charter operators own or lease the planes they fly or act as the operators of planes owned or leased by a third party. Charter brokers arrange for charter flights on planes operated by someone else. If all of the planes in an operator’s fleet are busy, an operator may act as a broker and arrange charter flights on the planes of another operator.
Because charter operators have a fixed fleet of planes at their disposal, they offer a consistent set of services across flights and the quality of the service offered is more likely to be comparable over time. Brokers who arrange for flights on the planes of several operators may have hundreds or even thousands of aircraft at their disposal. Consequently, they offer a wider choice of aircraft types and a greater range of prices. The services offered and the quality of that service will also vary, depending on the charter operator.
Chartering a plane with an operator based at a local airport may eliminate the repositioning fee that is charged if the plane must fly from one airport to another to pick up its passengers.
Another important factor in choosing a charter operator or broker is the amount of access that operator has to information from other operators and brokers. Increasingly, operators cooperate and share information with other operators and charter brokers as they seek to eliminate “empty-leg” flights, flights in which planes return to their home base with no passengers on board. Operators and brokers share information about unchartered return flights with each other and with business-to-business charter sites. Operators, brokers, and sites like Virgin Air’s Virgin Charter site then post available empty-leg flights on their Web sites with an offer of a discounted fare. Some sites also send empty-leg e-mail alerts informing consumers that a discounted charter flight is available.