Some attending this year’s National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas are concerned that a new rule regulating the air charter industry might go too far, or open the door to more regulations in the future. From the Department of Transportation (DOT) officials’ view, a deceptive minority have misled customers and needs to be regulated.
In late September the DOT issued a notice of proposed rule making. While it did not identify the culprits, the rules themselves suggest what some might have been doing wrong. It seems some of those who arrange charters, but have no aircraft of their own, have not disclosed that the aircraft was coming from another company. They are also sketchy on details, like the full cost, the airplane to be used, the name of the owner if the aircraft is in private hands, and the number of stops it might make before reaching a final destination. Consumers find out too late, and proceed with the flight, or cancel and fight to have their money refunded. They also don’t know the safety record of the company that actually provides the flight. If the rule is passed, DOT officials hope, those problems would be eliminated.
The rule would create a clearly defined new class of charter provider—the broker.
On the surface it seems like a good cause, but others warn that the rule should be greeted by skepticism. Comments are being accepted, and if you want to comment on it, look for Docket No. DOT-OST-2007-27057. Aviation attorney Kent Jackson, who will appear at a panel discussion during the NBAA convention, thinks the rule offers both opportunities and hazards. “The industry needs to respond to the DOT with concrete comments on the proposed rule. Without comments, the proposed disclosures could overwhelm the potential opportunities that the rule could provide,” he said.
David McCown, chairman of the Air Charter Association of North America (ACANA), warns that the new rule leaves the door open for additional regulations. “We know that thousands of charter brokers, operators and industry stakeholders have varying opinions and concerns about the NPRM. ACANA’s panel discussion will afford everyone the opportunity to express, hear and discuss concerns on the new regulations.”