Private jet charter can be complex for first time fliers or even for regular fliers . Whether you need a small jet for a business meeting in Paris, an aircraft with a stand up cabin for a family trip to the French Riviera the main thing that they all have in common is that your flight has to comply with the highest aviation standards.

As your broker we will search the market to find you the best aircraft for your trip, ensuring that the aircraft, crew and the operator company all adhere to the standards set by the CAA and or independent audit companies such as Wyvern and Argus certified.

We all love a bargain, especially when it comes to flying on a private jet. But if you think you’ve got a price that’s too good to be true, it probably is. The problem is that these so-called bargains are often in fact grey market charters, unregulated, compromising on safety and illegal.

Hawker 900XP

Grey Charter Flights

By definition, grey market charters are flights flown by privately- or corporately-owned aircraft, in which the owner is compensated for the flight, without having commercial operating authority to sell air transportation on that aircraft.

Many private jet owners offer their aircraft out for charter when they don’t use them, and usually they will have a management charter company who take care of the logistics and ensure all the necessary precautions are taken and licences and certifications obtained. This is because government-mandated safety regulations for charter aircraft are far more stringent than those for private aircraft. Not just in regards to maintenance but also factors such as how many hours the crew can fly in a day and even runway length each aircraft type can land on.

Duty Of Care  

With the economic downturn a few years ago came the rise in grey market charters. Business jet owners were informally renting out their jets to friends, family and strangers, for free, favours or much lower fees, simply to make ends meet. However, whether they knew it or not, the problem with this is that grey market charters are illegal, and they not only invalidate insurance policies, but also hit offenders with stiff fines and can result in finance package agreements being breached and even the aircraft being repossessed. If something does go wrong you are also not protected legally. Should an aircraft be impounded at your destination for breaching its finance arrangement you could be left stranded.

At Falcona we have a safety and compliance team who ensure that all the operators we deal with on behalf of our clients comply with all the national civil aviation regulations with regards to maintenance, operations and insurance. Each time we charter an aircraft we check out the operator, to ensure everything is taken care of. So should you come across a deal that looks a little too good to be true, we recommend asking the company if it has an Air Operatos Certificate, also known as an air operator’s certificate. Chartering illegally may be cheaper in some cases, but not only can it create problems and  it also puts your safety at risk.

Falcona will only charter aircraft that are of the highest standard,such as Wyvern Wingman operator.

Falcona will only charter aircraft that are of the highest standard,such as Wyvern Wingman operator.

These management charter companies still must adhere to stringent government-mandated safety regulations, comparable in most cases to those governing commercial airlines – regulations far more stringent than those governing private jet operations. And less than 50% of those charter/management companies also undergo regular third-party, independent audits, as a check against industry best practices and internationally-accepted safety standards.

Unfortunately, the current economic downturn has prompted more and more private jet owners to “rent out” their aircraft on a far more informal basis, at rates well below market rates. Some are looking for ways to reduce costs or lay off expenses. Others think that they are simply doing a favour for friends.

Such grey market charters are not only illegal – they are potentially dangerous for owners and “customers,” as well as for the pilots who perform them.

According to operators and brokers around the world, these illegal charter flights are becoming more and more common. And where they used to be prevalent primarily in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe and Russia, grey market charter is now a concern in the US as well. And that kind of desperation is not a prescription for a safe, professional flight operation.

The potential safety risks to passengers are many and various. Owners concerned about cost may cut corners on maintenance, training, or use low-cost, inexperienced flight crews. Where pilots flying for legal charter operations have strict flight and duty time limits, to insure safety and avoid fatigue, crews flying privately-operated aircraft have no duty time limits.

Safety aside, grey market charter exposes just about everyone involved to potentially serious legal penalties and liabilities:

  •  It invalidates insurance coverage on the aircraft, as insurers categorically will not pay out in the event of an incident or accident when the aircraft is being chartered illegally.

The bottom line: saving a few dollars through illegal charter can be very expensive for aircraft owners and their “customers” alike. It’s a very poor risk/reward equation.

Air Charter Regulations 

  • The company must hold a valid Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), issued by the relevant local department of the civil aviation authority, where the company is to be established. This confirms that the company has the professional ability and standard of organisation to ensure the safety of the operations specified on the certificate.

Are air charters regulated separately for commercial, cargo and private carriers?  

 The CAA regulates all aspects of the aviation industry except for military.

What should I do if I’m offered a flight that I’m not sure about?

If you wish to check the validity of the details that you are given, visit the CAA website.

However, if a provider cannot furnish you with the relevant AOC name and number, do not book the flight. Contact the CAA at the e-mail address below with the details and we will clarify the AOC status for you, and if need be, contact the company concerned to ensure they are aware of the requirements.


Foreign Registered Aircraft

What about foreign operators and aircraft?

The registration marks of UK-registered aircraft commence with a G (eg: G-ABCD). Those of foreign-registered aircraft start with other letters or numbers (eg: USA: N; France: F). Note that UK AOC holders may, in certain circumstances, operate foreign-registered aircraft.

Equivalent legal requirements to those described above also apply to foreign operators. However, each State is responsible for overseeing the safety of operators whose principal place of business is within their territory, and for granting the appropriate AOC and other documentation. Each State then has arrangements in place through which foreign-registered aircraft and operators are permitted to fly into, within, and from their territory.

An operator holding an AOC issued by an EU member State is permitted to operate freely into and between any other EU member States. However, operators registered outside the EU need to apply to each relevant State separately for permission to operate. In the UK, these permissions are handled by the Department for Transport (DfT).

In both cases, there are international arrangements in place through which the safety standards of foreign operators are monitored. All operators must comply with international safety standards before being permitted to operate commercially to/from or within the UK.

How do I know if the foreign operator on which I am offered a flight holds an AOC?

Again, ask the organisation through whom you are booking the flight. This may be a broker, an agent, or even your own employer. Take particular care in the case of foreign-registered corporate aircraft. If you are not satisfied, contact the Department for Transport on the numbers listed below:

For airlines from Russia and other former Soviet Union States (except Baltic States), countries in Asia, including the Indian sub-continent, and the Far East, Australasia

Tel: 020 7944 5804 or 5848

For airlines from North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean

Tel: 020 7944 5849 or 5848

For airlines from Europe (inc the Baltic States and Turkey), Africa and the Middle East

Tel: 020 7944 5806 or 5847


Though the vast majority of flights – particularly to, within and from the UK and EU – are operated in accordance with an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) which is a legal requirement, there are unscrupulous operators who choose to circumvent the system. It is very much in passengers’ interests to avoid being carried aboard illegal flights. Compliance with the higher safety standards demanded of AOC holders is expensive but any short-term cost advantage to the passenger in lower fares can so easily be outweighed should any accident or incident occur.

Contact the CAA, you can check a UK AOC online at: You can also e-mail a question to or go to

*Extract from ACS

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