Shady Charter Companies


Written by:
Alex M. Early, CEO of The Early Air Way
November 19th, 2012

I’ve wanted to write a blog post on this very important subject for a little while now. A series of phone calls I received starting last Thursday prompted me to do it now, however. This is going to be the first of a two-part posting. The next will be on “illegal charters.”

On Thursday night, I received an after-hours call from the owner of a purported charter company that I will not be naming. This person somehow had access to an internal e-mail thread my company uses as one of many methods of trading empty-leg segments on aircraft. When he called me, he explained that he was interested in covering a trip of ours. Because it was the afterhours, the trip was weeks away, and I had never heard of this guy or his company before, I asked him to e-mail me more information and stated that I’d review it in the morning.

The next morning, I received yet another call, at 06:00 a.m. Our receptionist explained to me that this same guy was calling, and wanting to “cover” another trip of ours for “a great price.” I told my receptionist to take a message, and then I did a little Google sleuthing and consulted with a colleague. Google showed me that this guy just bought his website only a couple months ago, had never worked in business aviation before, and had all sorts of postings across the internet flaunting stock images of various status symbols. The colleague of mine whom I consulted immediately forwarded me an e-mail from another reputable company in the industry about a trademark issue with this guy’s purported company name as well.

A little while later, I returned the phone call. I was told that this guy’s company owns a large fleet of “floating” aircraft around the country, and would immediately cover every single one of our client’s flights for about 1/3 less than we’re accustomed to paying. I asked him if he has an FAA pt. 135 operating certificate and he explained to me that he did. I proceeded to ask him for the certificate number so that I could do further research and he said “only after we do the deal.” I then explained that The Early Air Way would never utilize services without having completed a background check on a certificate, let alone knowing that a certificate even actually exists. After I said that, I was told to “go *%@& yourself,” just before being hung up on. Nice guy, huh?

Further sleuthing brought me to his website. Right on the homepage, they’re explaining that they’re the answer for charter clients who are concerned about their safety and security. I then saw a clause saying, verbatim, that [XXX as a proud “Platinum Certified Wyvern Member”, performs regular screens and audits….].

Well, The Early Air Way is an official “Wyvern Broker,” so I naturally know a bit about the Wyvern system and have contacts within the company. I know that there is absolutely no such thing as a “Platinum Certified Wyvern Member.” I decided to call a friend at Wyvern to see if this company really was a Wyvern provider, however. I was told that they in fact had nothing to do with Wyvern, the leading 3rd party aviation safety auditing firm, and had ignored three demands to remove the aforementioned verbiage from their website. My Wyvern rep said that they would sue if they had to, but always like taking care of these things outside of court if possible.

As I’m sure you’d agree, this is not the type of person and/or company you’d like to be doing business with. You wouldn’t want to trust your funds with this person/company, and you certainly wouldn’t want to trust your safety with this person. For the naïve consumer however, their website claims that they are the “world’s premier source of private aviation” and have the highest safety standards in the industry. The truth is that those claims are lies, but so many just would have no way of knowing that.

There are a handful of shady companies like that out there. The consumers who generally fall prey to them are the ones that are often lured in by the shady companies’ sometimes low prices. Almost always however, those low prices are the result of one of three things:

  1. Phantom Aircraft; click the link to read a previous article about this practice.
  2. Non-Payment of Federal Excise Taxes.
  3. Illegal “Part 134.5 charters”

While #1 and #2 are unethical business practices that can nip you long after you book your trip, #3 is presently one of the biggest things to plague the air charter industry and poses a clear and present danger to the unsuspecting consumer.

Look out for my upcoming article on “Part 134.5 charters;” if you charter planes, it will be a must read.