(noun) 1. A phrase that refers to the renting of an entire aircraft

Jet Set

For most people who have endured the cattle call of scheduled airline service, charter air travel hits all the right notes: easy check-in, no lost baggage, first-class amenities, custom itineraries … ahhhh. Of course, the reality is that it's expensive, but if you can fill the plane, some estimate that the per-person cost is not a whole lot higher than a first-class ticket on a scheduled carrier. Plus, consider the benefits of greater time efficiency and, for an incentive winner, the reward factor.

Prepare for Takeoff

Before you contact charter operators or brokers, get your ducks in a row. You'll need to know how many passengers will be traveling, where those passengers are leaving from and headed to, and how much baggage and cargo to expect. The type of baggage can be an issue. Light jets and other smaller planes, for example, often don't have space for golf bags or skis. Also, know your travelers' expectations. Are they fine with the relatively high noise level of a prop plane, or do they need to hold a meeting during the flight? Do they expect to watch a DVD, eat a cooked meal, have a bathroom on board, smoke?

Plane as Day

If you don't know the differences among single-piston aircraft, turboprops, light jets, mid-jets, heavy jets, and the other variations in the aircraft available for charter, AirCharterGuide.com offers a nice tutorial touching on passenger and luggage capacity, operating costs, and flight range and includes a list of representative aircraft in each category.

Paying for the Piper

Air charters are often priced by the hour according to the actual flight time, but you can request a fixed quote that won't change in the face of stiff head winds or air traffic delays. (Of course, you won't see savings if you have a good tail wind, either.) Some operators charge according to distance, rather than flight time, but that can be challenging because mileage is harder to verify. Make sure that you know what's included in the price. Is it a package price, or are landing fees, hangar storage, de-icing, taxes, and other charges added on?

I Don't Want to Die

Your charter company's aircraft should meet the Federal Aviation Administration's Part 135 requirements, which certify that an aircraft complies with the FAA's standards for safety and maintenance. The charter company shouldn't hesitate to share its operating certificate, safety record, and insurance policy. Ask for customer references.

FYI

Propeller planes typically travel about 200 mph, while jets fly closer to 500 mph.

Sources: Air Charter Guide, www.aircharterguide.com; U.S. Skylink Inc., www.avchart.com; LifeTips, http://privateaircraftcharter.lifetips.com; Answers.com