February 01, 1999
Meetings & Conventions Charter Members February 1999 Current Issue
February 1999

Charter Members

Want more control over air transportation? Hire your own plane and the sky’s the limit

By Lisa Grimaldi

When Lexye Aversa learned commercial flights to and from the Canary Islands required “long and burdensome connections,” she considered chartering an aircraft instead. Aversa, president of Professional Touch International, a Berkeley Heights, N.J.-based incentive firm, was convinced that commercial flights wouldn’t do when she learned her client a high-end incentive group would have to depart at dawn to make the flight home.

“With a chartered jet, they’d be able to leave in the afternoon the participants would, in effect, be getting an extra day,” she says.

Rigid commercial airline scheduling is just one of the reasons planners like Aversa have gone the charter route. Dawn Levesque, a meeting planner at Moline, Ill.-based John Deere & Company, often relies on charters for “moving a lot of people from point A to point B particularly when those points are in destinations with little or no commercially scheduled flights. When we have to bring clients or employees to headquarters or to factories, [chartering] can mean the difference between two hours of flying time and eight, when you factor in connections, layovers, etc.,” she adds.

Among the other benefits: The group can stay together for the duration of the program or meeting, with no need for staggered arrivals and departures; there’s no ticketing process; inflight catering can be upgraded (at additional cost), and aircraft cabins can be customized with banners and other decorations welcoming the group.

Other points to consider:

" Safety: “In the United States, charter aircraft are more fully regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration than commercial airlines,” says Fred Gervalt, president of Boston Aviation Services, publishers of The Air Charter Guide (see “Need a Lift?” on page 74). To determine whether a company is reputable, “Look for how long it has been in business, the age of its fleet and the ratio of part-time pilots to full-time pilots,” he says.

" Cost: Most planners and charter operators say there is no significant cost advantage to using a charter aircraft over commercial carriers. “It’s not the main reason to look into chartering,” says Aversa. However, Dawn Levesque has found on a few occasions that the cost was about equal to what it would be to fly the same number of employees on a commercial carrier with volume discounts.

Included in the basic price (which is quoted per aircraft, not per passenger): fuel, pilots, cabin crew and standard catering. Some charter airlines have their own gate personnel, on-site customer service reps and contracts with baggage handlers. If these services are not included, charter brokers can make the arrangements.

“Chartering is not something for the inexperienced,” says Lexye Aversa. “A planner should know airports and understand time changes, gate slots and details such as peak usage of aircraft flying into a destination before they consider it.”

The chartered skies
To find planes for hire, planners can use charter brokers, who represent all types of aircraft providers, or travel agents. Or, they can book directly with charter companies without going through middlemen.

Another resource: commercial airlines. Many have special group charter departments. “However, their planes are not as readily available [craft availability fluctuates seasonally], and pricing isn’t as great as charter-only firms,” cautions Kelly Brooks, vice president of marketing for Flight Time International, a Waltham, Mass.-based charter broker.

Following is a list of charter suppliers that handle meeting and incentive groups.


Albuquerque, N.M.
(505) 761-9000
Fax: (505) 344-1906

Waltham, Mass.
(800) 445-0404
(781) 891-0405
Fax: (781) 891-9540
Fleet: In addition to representing charter and commercial airlines, Flight Time has its own fleet of nine planes available for charters: one 727-200 and eight large turboprop planes (seating 50 or fewer).


Ypsilanti, Mich.
(800) 521-1590
Fax: (734) 544-3404
Fleet: Two L1011s

New York City
(718) 656-2650
(718) 995 3372
Fleet: Two B757s, one B737, with another B737 to be added next month

(305) 876-3600
(305) 871-4222
Fleet: Seven B727-200s

(800) 743-7848
(651) 681-3905
Fax: (651) 681-3970
Fleet: 11 B727-200s, four DC10s

(888) 732-5939
(770) 732-6906
Fax: (770) 732-6956
Fleet: Eight A320s

Louisville, Ky. (UPS headquarters is in Atlanta)
(502) 359-7929
Fax: (502) 359-8492
Fleet: Five 727-100s are converted from cargo planes into passenger craft Fridays through Mondays.


The following are among the U.S.-based commercial carriers that offer charter service. (Where not noted, fleet availability fluctuates.)

(317) 243-4150
Fax: (317) 254-4164
Fleet: Charters account for more than 50 percent of ATA’s business. In use are 24 727-200s, eight 757s and 14 L1011s, with five additional L1011s to be added over the next few years.

(713) 834-6647
Fax: (713) 834-6311

(404) 715-2652
Fax: (404) 715-2338

(414) 570-3654
Fax: (414) 570-9606

(612) 726-6757
Fax: (612) 726-6759

(847) 700-5756
Fax: (847) 700-7013

(The airline’s headquarters is in Arlington, Va.)
(412) 747-5972
Fax: (412) 747-1481

Charter chatter
When chartering aircraft, it’s helpful to know some of the lingo. Among the key terms:

Single entity: One sponsor is paying for the charter passengers are not contributing to the cost. Incentive groups and sports teams are prime examples of single-entity charters.

Pro rata: An affinity group such as an alumni organization charters the plane, and the cost is divided among the individuals.

Public: Open to the public individuals pay for their seats.

Direct load: Loading passengers onto aircraft without going through the airport terminal. This is restricted to single-entity charters and subject to approval of the airport.

Fixed-base operator (FOB): A facility separate from the main terminal, primarily used for charter aircraft with fewer than 30 seats.

Part 121: FAA regulations governing operation of aircraft with passenger-seating configuration of more than 30 seats.

Part 135: FAA regulations governing operation of aircraft with maximum passenger configuration of 30 seats.

Pitch: Distance from any point on an airline seat to the corresponding point on the seat in front or behind it, measured in inches as a gauge of comfort for passengers.

Slot: Authorization granted by an airport or air traffic controller for an aircraft to land or take off at a specific time.

Pick a plane Types of aircraft available for charter in the United States Aircraft typeRangeApproximate # of seats DC9 3 hours 90 B737 3 hours 120 B727-100 4 hours 118 B727-200 4.5 hours 170 A320 5 hours 170 B757 6 hours 214 L1011 8-10 hours 360 DC10 8-10 hours 380 B747 14+ hours 470 Regional jet 2.5 hours 50 Source: Waltham, Mass.-based charter broker Flight Time International

Need a lift?
The Air Charter Guide, published by Cambridge, Mass.-based Boston Aviation Services (617-547-5811,, lists more than 16,000 aircraft charter firms worldwide. The directory, which is updated annually, is available in print ($185) or CD-Rom ($275). A free executive pocket edition is also available.

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