What Are Charter Airlines?

Charter flights play an integral role in the aviation industry across the globe. They provide useful services for travelers to get to their destination while contributing significantly to the overall economy of the market. However, what actually are charter airlines? Let’s take a look.

TUI Boeing 757 Skiathos Getty
Providing flights from the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, TUI is one of the largest charter airlines in the world. Photo: Getty Images

The types of flying

To get a better understanding of the nature of charters, let’s first take a look at the different types of flights. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) classifies civil aviation activities into two groups – general and commercial.

General aviation includes instructional, pleasure, non-commercial business, aerial work, and “other” flying. Meanwhile, commercial services are split between scheduled and non-scheduled. The latter includes on-demand operations such as air taxis and commercial business aviation. Notably, non-scheduled also includes charter services.

Gulfstream private jet silhouette
Amid the personal nature of these operations, private charter businesses promote speed, comfort, and safety benefits with their services. Photo: Getty Images

Breaking it down

So, on the surface of it, a charter is an unscheduled flight. It involves an aircraft that is hired for a specific journey and not part of a carrier’s usual schedule. However, there are actually numerous types of charter flights.

Private: Generally, a person hires an entire plane rather than booking specific seats on a commercial service with a private charter.

Public: Here, an airline offers service to certain destinations on a limited basis. They are often seasonal and could be provided by tour operators renting an aircraft.

Cargo: Just as with scheduled commercial services, goods can also be flown on charter services. The industry has seen a ramp-up of this type of service amid the urgent medical supplies that have had to move around the world amid the pandemic.

Affinity: With this type, travelers form part of a wider group or organization and pay for their own tickets. They could be sports or music fans going to a special event.

Several airlines offer both charter and scheduled services. Photo: Getty Images

Opening up opportunities

Altogether, flying can be an expensive and complex activity. Yet, it’s often the most effective way to move around. So, chartering can provide simpler solutions for companies and passengers needing to hit the air. The ability to choose the timing, aircraft, and destination goes a long way. Ultimately, the key benefit of this tailored service is flexibility.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Notably, charter airlines can offer full services. The likes of TUI highlight that organizations can arrange flights with extra provisions such as catering and VIP offerings with all the aircraft in the fleet. So, groups can rent out TUI’s Boeing 737, 767, and 787 for business trips, incentives, exhibitions, day trips, and sports events.

Charter services have been a saving grace for airlines in recent months. For instance, Sun Country Airlines’ charters for the likes of sports teams, the US Department of Defense, casinos, and even Amazon have contributed significantly to its overall income while scheduled services have been impacted across the industry.

Nonetheless, you may have even been on a charter flight without realizing it. Several package holiday companies actually sell vacations to hotspots that transport passengers via charter airlines. Overall, amid the ever-changing conditions in the current climate, charter flights are a great way for the industry to adapt.

What are your thoughts about charter flights? How has your experience been on these services over the years? Let us know what you think of these operations in the comment section.