As recently as 20 years ago, a flight crew landing in a remote part of the world may have had to navigate a complex and often inconsistent maze of requirements, possibly involving the payment of bribes, questionable equipment servicing, contaminated fuel, and a hostile local regime.
Although the overall level of service has improved in today’s global economy, in some locations, not much has changed.
How can you keep yourself, your crew, your passengers, and your aircraft safe and secure when flying into uncertain or risky areas? While there are no absolute guarantees, choosing the right International Service Provider (ISP) for your trip can help.
The ISP will assist you with: ground handling, aircraft fueling, concierge services, weather briefing, security, flight plans, and more. For example, it will:
- Help ensure or verify that crew and passengers have all the correct documentation, and advise on required vaccines.
- Explain the complicated rules for U.S. operators travelling to, or overflying, a country which has U.S. sanctions against it.
- Ensure compliance with local regulations, whether flying your own aircraft or charter flight.
- Expedite local airport entry (reserving a landing slot, customs clearance, etc.), as well as facilitate other factors affecting your trip.
How should you choose the right ISP for your specific travel requirements?
- Consider your unique flight operation profile. Choosing the “one stop shop” for all your services may be easier on your accountant, but could leave you with a high-stakes gap in capabilities. (No one wants to be the subject of the headline: “Business Jet Shot Down for Lack of Overflight Permit.”) Cost is an important – but by no means the only – consideration. Higher prices may not translate into higher levels of expertise, and the lowest price isn’t always the best value.
- Does the ISP specialize and have strong resources in the region to which you’re traveling? If not, you may need to retain more than one ISP, if you often operate globally. However, it is not recommended to use more than one ISP to coordinate a particular flight as this can leave you vulnerable to key missed details.
- Ask your ISP when it last serviced a flight into your intended destination. If it was 2005, consider using a different ISP for this trip. Yes, the long-standing relationship between your Chief Pilot and his/her ISP representative is important. But even more critical is that the ISP makes your safety its top priority, and has first-hand knowledge of your destination.
- While different ISPs may offer conflicting advice as to whether a location is safe, the less experience one has at a given location, the more conservative its advice is likely to be. An ISP which supports several flights per week or per month into a specific location should be a reliable source.
- There is a significant difference between an ISP with facilities and/or personnel in a location, and one which has a contracted agent who may or may not be vetted and background-checked. Hiring the ISP that makes an investment to ensure its representatives are trustworthy could mean the difference between a successful trip and a stint in the local jail!
- While uneven service and bribes formerly were the norm, many ISPs are working hard to improve conditions for business aviation operators worldwide. Carrying excessive amounts of cash should not be necessary, as your ISP likely can extend credit at any location, even providing cash to the Agent on your behalf. The ISP’s job is to mitigate the risk of you or your crew becoming a target of dishonest officials or employees.
While an ISP may promise the world on a platter with a shiny bow, it’s up to you and your aviation team to thoroughly investigate the available options and choose which provider(s) best fit your travel needs. That shiny bow is nice, but doesn’t come wrapped around a stack of cash to pay your bail. BAA
Caterina Taylor is the Manager of North American Business Development for Jetex Flight Support, based at CRQ, Carlsbad, CA. She has 20 years of experience in FBO, Fuel, and Aviation Trip Support Services.