A public charter is one in which a tour operator rents the aircraft and advertises and sells seats to members of the public, either directly or through a travel agent. In the case of public charters, the flight must be filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the tour operator must supply a charter prospectus. The tour operator also must assume a legal responsibility to provide the transportation service, and must abide by DOT requirements for the protection of the clients' money. Public charters often operate only seasonally, and are often sold as part of a vacation package deal, although spare seats may be offered at bargain prices.
No matter what company you're flying with, be sure to ask if there two pilots or one. (Though two pilots are standard on commercial flights, regulations vary for private planes of all sizes.) It also helps to ask if the operator owns the plane—typically, companies that own their planes offer better service. Never forget to ask about daily minimums and taxi fees. "If the hourly rate is $9,000 and you have a single 40-minute flight, you might assume you are going to pay $6,000," says Doug Gollan, creator of PrivateJetCardComparisons.com. "But if your provider has a daily minimum of 1.5 hours, you are going to actually be charged $13,500, plus taxi time, which in my comparisons I have found varies between being included and up to 12 minutes per segment."
With a dry lease, the lessor provides the aircraft without crew. These arrangements are favored by leasing companies and banks, and require the lessee to put the aircraft on its own AOC and provide aircraft registration. Dry leases usually cover a term of no less than two years. Lessees must comply with conditions regarding maintenance, insurance, and depreciation, and other requirements that may be affected by geographical location, political circumstances or other factors.
A single-entity charter is one in which an individual or company charters a plane and bears the entire cost of the flight, so that the passengers do not pay their own airfare. There is no minimum passenger requirement, since the cost is per flight, not per person. Single-entity charters are typically used for business purposes -- for example, travel to meetings and conferences, incentive travel or VIP leisure travel.
Flight departments are corporate-owned operators who manage the aircraft of a specific company. Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, and Altria are examples of companies that own, maintain and operate their own fleet of private aircraft for their employees. Flight departments handle all aspects of aircraft operation and maintenance. In the United States, flight-department aircraft operate under FAR 91 operating rules.