If your jet breaks down midway through a round trip, you’ll get half your money back, but you’ll be stuck needing a one-way home that could cost far more than the back half of a round-trip rate.
If your jet breaks down midway through a round trip, you’ll get half your money back, but you’ll be stuck needing a one-way home that could cost far more than the back half of a round-trip rate.

When Service Falls Short

Private jet travelers only rarely encounter problems such as substandard catering, inoperative cabin equipment, and mechanical issues that leave them stranded. And when such troubles do ariseb, most lift providers will do backflips to mollify unhappy clients. Yet even the best providers may occasionally fall short of expectations. Here’s what you can do to avoid service issues, and to address those that do occur.

Start by ensuring that you or your representative read and understand the provider’s contract and its obligations. Discuss any service requests and associated costs, if applicable, and make sure you’re not asking for more than you can reasonably request. “In general, people who are flying on private aircraft expect everything to be perfect,” says Stephen Hofer, founder and president of bizav law firm Aerlex. “Occasionally, it is not.” 

Consider catering—among the most common subjects of complaint: “If you’re used to having dinner at Spago or Jean-Georges, the same five-star dining experience can’t be translated to private aviation,” Hofer says. 

Do Your Homework Before Flying Privately (We'll Help)

Related Article

Do Your Homework Before Flying Privately (We'll Help)

Whether you’re weighing the relative merits of charter, a jet card, a membership program, or a share in a fractionally owned aircraft, we’re here to help.

Keep catering requests aligned with available foods at the departure point, the galley equipment, and the crew’s capabilities. For example, don’t request “sushi out of Marrakesh or caviar out of a small Greek island,” advises Emily Williams, cofounder of U.K. bizav consultancy I&W Ltd. “Keep it simple.”

Should catering or any other service not meet your standards despite prior discussion, contact the flight provider. “To my knowledge, no [provider] has a complaint department,” notes Kevin O’Leary, president and founder of consultancy Jet Advisors. “Today, most have a small team that takes care of the customer all the way through.” 

No industry trade group has a complaint window, either. Acana (Air Charter Association of North America) “does not answer consumer complaints,” a spokesperson said. But no consumer watchdog appears needed, as many providers will unhesitatingly drop catering charges, or adjust the cost of the trip if the aircraft didn’t meet specified or promised criteria, or you were inconvenienced by, say, a seat that refused to recline or a balky in-flight entertainment system. Losing an account and the potential for client badmouthing is far costlier than trying to keep the customer satisfied.

Aircraft-on-ground (AOG) situations—when a mechanical problem takes the airplane contracted for your flight out of service—are the ultimate test of your provider’s abilities and commitment, however. Should an AOG occur, standard charter contracts relieve your provider of any responsibility beyond returning your money. If you booked a critical mission in advance and locked in a discounted rate, you’ll now have to pay a premium for whatever lift is available at the last minute. If your jet breaks down midway through a round trip, you’ll get half your money back, but you’ll be stuck needing a one-way home that could cost far more than the back half of a round-trip rate. If the AOG occurs during a peak travel day or weekend, or in a remote location, it could be days before a recovery aircraft is available. 

“Aircraft are not perfect, and if customers wish to have absolute security, they should consider paying the additional cost to have a reserve aircraft available,” says Richard Mumford, chairman of BACA, Europe’s charter industry trade association.

As with more garden-variety issues, providers will do all they can to assist you in an AOG situation and find alternative lift, but you’ll still be responsible for shouldering the main financial burden. Major charter operators and brokerages have larger fleets and are more capable of providing backup aircraft than smaller providers. If you shop charter by price, expect corresponding service levels in time of need. When contemplating your expectations, consider how you’d like an AOG situation handled, and the capabilities of your provider to respond.

Meanwhile, charter operators are looking for longer-term AOG solutions. At the National Business Aviation Association’s annual convention last October, Clay Lacy Aviation led discussions with underwriters aimed at developing insurance to cover AOGs, says Veriar Collins-Jenkins, that company’s vice president for charter and managed services. (Clay Lacy guarantees no-cost AOG recovery to its charter customers.)

In the interim, consider that being left stranded isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. “Having to spend an extra day in the Turks and Caicos or the French Riviera is not the worst punishment in the world,” notes Hofer.

THANK YOU TO OUR BJTONLINE SPONSORS