Not all flights are created equal, which most of us know from all of the online searching we do in order find the best price or the shortest flight. But have you thought much about charter flights? Probably not. While they may not be for everyone, it’s always smart to consider all your options. Generally speaking, a charter flight is an aircraft flight that has been arranged and paid for by an individual or group for a specific trip. Meaning the entire flight goes to a specific destination, for a specific reason, with only those people who booked it. Be it for a vacation tour package or large group travelling to the same place for an event, the entire plane (not just a group of seats) is booked for a specific purpose.
Read on to learn more about charter flights, booking charter flights, who charter flights are best for and airlines that offer charter flights, and when you’re ready to start researching your next trip, head to Cheapflights.ca to find the best prices.Search for flights
Charter flights explained
The world of travel is full of confusing terms that the everyday traveller may not understand. Charter flights, for example, is one of those terms. Travellers may have heard about charter flights, but likely never considered them as an option for their own travel.
So, is a charter flight to Europe, for example, the same as a regularly schedule flight with Air Canada? Simply put, no. When you book a regular flight with Air Canada or other big-name company such as United or Delta, say from Vancouver to Los Angeles, that flight operates according to a strict and regular schedule (for example, Monday through Thursday, at noon and 5 p.m.). With charters, itineraries are set not by the airline but by another party, most often a tour operator.
In those cases, flights are usually sold with accommodation as part of a package and most often depart at times ideal for vacationers. Seats on charter flights can be sold individually through a charter company or as part of a vacation package through a tour operator such as Air Transat.
If you’re taking a public charter for the purposes of a tour or vacation package, most often you’ll still need to adhere to regular in-flight and pre-flight rules with regards to airport security, baggage allowances, etc.
Who are charter flights for?
Charter flights can be broken down into a few categories:
Single-entity charters: A single entity charter refers to an airplane that is chartered by a single company or group for the exclusive use of the passengers on that flight. These are typically used for business purposes such as travel to meetings and conferences.
Affinity charters: An affinity charter is slightly different in that – although all of the passengers are part of a specific business, group or organization – everyone on that flight pays their own airfare. A charter flight like this might be used for passengers who are sports or music fans heading to a special event or convention, or a large group of friends or family going on vacation. With this type of charter, no seats are sold to members of public.
Public charters: A public charter is one in which a tour or vacation operator rents the aircraft and sells seats to members of the public, either directly or through a travel agent, for example, as part of a vacation tour package in which airfare is included.
For our purposes, since we’re in the business of helping people make vacation plans, we’re focusing more on public charters. These flights are synonymous with summertime travel. Tour operators who put together vacation packages will charter or lease an aircraft from an airline, and the tour operator will sell the seats to travellers, usually through a travel agent. In this scenario, the passenger’s contact is the travel agent, not the airline.
Which airlines offer charter flights?
Air Transat: Air Transat is the most popular option for charter flight options in Canada. A subsidiary of Transat A.T. Inc., the tour operator flies to the Caribbean and the United States during the winter months, and to popular destinations in Europe during the summer including Belgium, Spain, France, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands.
Central Mountain Air: This airline serves 17 communities throughout British Columbia and Alberta including Calgary, Edmonton, Prince George, High Level, Rainbow Lake, Vancouver, Comox and Campbell River.
Air Canada: Air Canada offers charter flights through Air Canada Jetz. These flights are mostly for professional sports teams, entertainment groups and corporate clients.
Porter: Porter offers charter flights for large groups who require the entire plane for their party.
How do you book a charter flight?
The easiest way to book a seat on a charter flight is through a vacation tour provider such as Air Transat. Simply put, you would go on the Air Transat website or speak with an agent in order to book the vacation package you’re interested in.
The second option, if you’re planning to charter an entire flight, would be to contact the provider directly. Most companies who offer charter flights have a form on their website for requesting travel. Once submitted, wait for a quote and more information from that airline.
Group travel vs. charter flights
Group travel and charter flights are not the same thing, although they might sound like they should be. Many airlines, including WestJet and Porter, offer a group travel option. But in this case, you aren’t chartering the entire plane, only a portion of seats on a regularly scheduled flight. People choose to book group travel for large family vacations, wedding parties, or simply to get a 10 or more people to the same place at the same time.
Cost of charter flights
The cost of charter flights varies, especially when it comes to private versus public charters. In the case of public charter flights, tour operators pay one price per plane trip, and they decide how much to charge each passenger. Rates of these flights can fluctuate based on season and demand, but in most cases they tend to be less expensive than those of mainstream airlines, especially when you factor in the bundling of accommodation.
Where do charter flights fly?
If you’re booking a charter flight with a commercial airline, they fly charters to their regular list of destinations. So, in the case of Porter, for example, a list can be found here.
As we mentioned above, Air Transat covers various destinations in the Caribbean and Europe, and Central Mountain Air flies to various communities throughout British Columbia and Alberta.
Tips for flying on a charter flight
Think strategically: In many cases, it can pay to delay buying a ticket until just before you want to travel. Prices often drop a few days before the flight because charter airlines must sell seats or they lose money on the flight.
Do your research: Contact the airline or tour provider by telephone or online before you commit your cash. Ask your travel agent or charter service about extra options (such as in-flight amenities and meals, etc.) before committing to your ticket.
Know where you are flying: Charter flights often land at small or out-of-the-way airports. Travellers on an all-inclusive holiday will usually have transport arranged as part of the package, but flight-only travellers may not. Check out local transport links or taxi companies to avoid being stranded or hefty taxi bills.
Know what is included in your ticket: Will you get a meal? Do you have to pay for in-flight food? What is your baggage allowance? Can you pay extra for a seat with more legroom? Is there a fuel surcharge/credit card charge/ticket-on-departure charge? Get in touch before hand or do your research online to avoid surprises.
Where should you start your research? Cheapflights.ca, that’s where. Have you ever flown on a charter flight? Let us know in the comments below.Search for flights