‘Illegal charter must be watched very carefully’: Neil Harvey


It is all too easy to cross over into illegality when it comes to aircraft charter and the dangers should be monitored carefully, according to Neil Harvey, director, Executive Aviation at charter company Hunt & Palmer.

Harvey told the 400 plus delegates: “The worry is there is a grey area – a place where it crosses over from a simple flying club inquiry to go flying, which you can do in a Cessna 172 with two people. But the platform could also generate a 23-seat inquiry for a CRJ and everyone claim their share of the flight.”

He added: “So, I think if it gets people into recreational flying, that can be a good thing. But it can cross over too easily and it needs to be watched very carefully.”

One delegate did not think the regulatory authorities had enough ‘teeth’ when it came to combatting illegal charter. Gary Palin, director, Air Fleet Operations, said: “35 years ago, I was fighting grey charter. The authorities had no teeth then. They don’t now.”

However, Dave Edwards, CEO, Air Charter Association (ACA), said: “They have more [teeth] than you’d think, they don’t like talking about it for some reason. The EBAA [European Business Aviation Association] and the ACA work closely with NATA [National Air Transport Association] on illegal charter. They’ve done some great things with the FAA, for sure, and we meet regularly to learn from each other.”

Shanavas Soopy, MD, Executive Lifestyle, a Bahrain-based corporate charter service, worried fraudulent charter was becoming more widespread. “There are a lot of individuals trying to act as charter brokers without any registered office and selling charters for penny for cash rolling,” said Soopy. “Is there any way to exert control over this?”

Harvey explained how Covid-19, in decreasing charter prices, has allowed new charter operators into the market. “ I think the those who have come into the market relatively recently are picking up the weaker trips. They’re easier to win because they’re won on cost but longer term, they’re easier to lose [money on] and you’ve always got to make the aircraft pay. In Europe I’m not expecting to see too many failures but it’s going to be a very hard time – probably for the next 18 months.”

This Town Hall was sponsored by ACA. Meanwhile, you can watch the hour-long, free access meeting here