What Is A Charter Airline? A Simple Explanation

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(Last updated on: 03/04/2020)

Did you know that there are different types of airlines? You can choose to fly with a charter airline, a scheduled airline or a low-cost airline (also commonly referred to as a budget airline or no-frills airline). But what’s the difference?

Within the travel and tourism sector of the economy, there are many different levels and types of transportation. From planes to trains and cars, the industry has grown exponentially over the last few decades.

This is especially true for the aviation industry! As shown below in the chart by ICAO, the industry has experienced HUGE growth over the past few decades and this growth is set to continue.

Image source

Many people will simply book their flights and be done with it, without really understanding what they should expect from said flight. Will I get food included? Will the flight time be likely to change? What happens if the airline goes bust- am I protected?

In order to get a good idea of what to expect, you need to understand the different types of airline. So, in this post I will explain what a charter airline is.

What is a charter airline?

What is a charter airline?

If you look up the term ‘charter’ in the dictionary, you will find that it basically means to rent or to lease. So in essence, a charter airline is one that operates on the basis of ‘rented’ or ‘leased’ flights.

These tend to me associated with package holidays. The holiday company effectively ‘leases’ the flight and combines it with the package holiday elements of a hotel and transfer.

Ever been on a Thomas Cook or TUI holiday? Whilst many people are swapping these traditional package holidays nowadays for dynamic packaging (for more see- Are airlines the new tour operator? Dynamic packaging in aviation), you are likely to have gone on a package holiday when you were younger and these were all the rage.

Alongside the tour operator use of charter airlines, aircraft can be leased or chartered from airlines for use for particular events or occasions. The FA, for example, might lease an aircraft to fly all of their football players out for a game or the Government might lease a flight for a large event or summit.

What elements are included in a charter flight?

A charter airline will tend to follow the set structure that traditional charter flights have offered throughout the years.

Typically, you will be offered an in-flight meal. You will usually be asked if you will require a meal in advance and required to pay a fee for this. The Cabin Crew will then hand out meals to the relevant passengers. Sometimes the meal might be automatically included and you will be charged for this. Special meals are usually available upon request.

Charter airlines will usually have baggage included in the price of your ticket. I recommend that you check the weight of your luggage before you depart for the airport as they can have pretty hefty fees if it is overweight!

One of the best things about travelling with charter airline is that you have additional financial security if the flight is booked as part of a package holiday. Package holidays are covered by ABTA and ATOL regulations (you can read more about how this works here)https://www.caa.co.uk/ATOL-protection/Consumers/About-ATOL/. Whilst these cover many things, one of the most noteworthy aspects to travellers is that they will cover the costs if your holiday company or airline goes bust or if there is some type of disaster, terrorist incident etc.

What are the benefits of using a charter airline?

There are a few benefits of using a charter airline.

One of the pros of this type of flight is that the prices are generally cheaper. Of course, it is important to compare prices but more times than none, you will find a cheaper charter flight. I recommend Skyscanner to find the best bargains!  

Charter flights are also usually direct and are nonstop. It is always nice to go straight to your destination!

Lastly, if you book as part of a package holiday, you will have the added security of ABTA and ATOL protection.  

What are the cons of a charter airline?

Flying with a charter airline has has its drawbacks. In fact, so much so that many people have claimed that the charter airline is dying a death! With many people opting to organise their holidays independently or using a dynamic package model, the need for charter airlines is becoming less and less, I personally think they will cease to exist in the next twenty years or so!

One of the cons of a charter airline is the amount of cancellations that can happen with these types of flights. Since the flights are operated on an ad-hoc basis (i.e. when they are required), it is common for your flight time to change or to be cancelled entirely. This can be a pain for travellers!

Another negative of a charter airline is that they often so not offer the luxuries that you might get with a scheduled airline. The often fly from tertiary airports, which can be less convenient to reach and the rarely offer business or first class facilities.

Have you ever used a charter airline? Did you have a positive or negative experience with this type of airline? Please comment below!

1 Comment
  1. Amecet Yashpal

    In India, here is so many this type of airlines, i will avoid going through these type flights.



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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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