Now is the Time to Book Holiday Travel
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve are fast approaching, and families across the country are beginning to finalize their travel plans for the holiday season. Whether you’re flying home for the holidays, flying family members into your hometown, or enjoying a luxurious, fun-filled getaway in your favorite winter wonderland, here is what you need to know about chartering for holiday travel.
Booking your charter with your favorite operator or broker might require a little more prior planning than the same trip another time of year.
Private planes are in very high demand this time of year and often times the most attractively priced aircraft book well in advance. Book early. Waiting until the last minute could leave you with fewer options. Most on-demand charter firms will still be able to accommodate, but you might have to settle with your second or third choice of aircraft type. Some airports only have a certain number of slots for inbound private aircraft traffic. Even if you get your first choice of aircraft, a last minute booking could have you flying to an alternative airport that is not as convenient to your end destination.
You might be tempted to wait until the last minute to try to pick up an “empty leg” deal. If these are available at all, don’t expect the normal discounts. You can still find deals, but greater demand will drive these prices higher. If you find something good but decide to shop around for something even better, you could miss out completely.
Special terms and conditions of charter are common during the holiday season. Be sure to pay close attention to the cancellation policy. For peak travel, there is usually a less generous cancellation policy, if you are able to cancel a flight at all once it’s booked. The industry standard is usually a 24 or 48-hour cancellation policy for domestic flights, but during or around major holidays, they are often non-cancellable. Make sure you understand the cancellation policy before signing the charter agreement.
When shopping for your aircraft, keep in mind that operators are less likely to keep a plane at your destination for long periods over the peak travel time. Your familiar six-day trip from Miami to Nassau might be one price the rest of the year as the jet can remain in the Bahamas for the duration of your stay. During peak periods however, your operator may not want to keep their jet sitting idle for several days. In fact, they might not even be able to, as they will likely have other holiday trips already on their schedule. If they are willing to do this, or if they need to work around other trips, they might charge a premium for extended stays or even price it as two round trips. Your charter broker should be familiar with these policies and review the options with you.
One final suggestion: be sure you are only flying on aircraft that are on an FAA Part 135 charter certificate. This means that it is legal for charter. There are private jet owners that try to take advantage of the busy holiday travel season by offering their jets up for charter when they are not legal to do so.