Pilots Talk. Besides paperwork, there’s not a lot else to do when they’re required to remain onsite at the FBO – often for an unpredictable length of time – ready and on call for wheels up at a moment’s notice.
So when a former colleague or military buddy walks in, it’s natural to want to shoot the breeze: “Where’re you flying?” “Where’ve you been?” or “Who’s on board?” These may seem like innocuous questions – except when you’re in town to negotiate a highly sensitive deal, cement an acquisition, or your passenger is a high-profile individual who requires absolute anonymity.
When hiring a flight crew, buying a fractional share, or chartering a flight, business aircraft owners usually focus primarily on the important provisions of the employment or charter agreement relating to costs, access, regulatory compliance, and, of course, safety. But one more clause can prove vital to your business, privacy, and reputation: a signed, comprehensive confidentiality agreement. Every business aircraft owner or user should have such an agreement in place. Here’s why:
1 Protect Business and Personal Information – Use a confidentiality agreement to protect from disclosure any information your crew may learn about you, your business, or the people with whom you travel. Whether you want to shield the identities of fellow passengers, locations where and the frequency at which you travel, and any business or proprietary information, a well-drafted confidentiality agreement will protect any information learned before, during, and after any flight.
2 Limit Flight-Related Disclosures – By law, a flight crew must make certain flight-related disclosures to comply with applicable regulations. However, you can use a confidentiality agreement to limit and define flight-related information so that only such information as is necessary for safe and legal operation is disclosed. Failure to properly define permitted disclosures may lead to leaks of potentially sensitive information such as destination airports, passenger manifests, and stops.
3 Amend Existing Agreements – Your own full-time crew members, or those who work for your management company, already may be subject to an employment or other agreement. If so, you can use a confidentiality agreement to add both protections and also other duties and obligations. For example, you may want to include more stringent drug and alcohol testing than what is already required. Or you may want to implement a dress code. Whatever unique provisions you may require, a confidentiality agreement can be a good tool to supplement any existing agreement.
4 Improve Enforcement – Monetary damages can be an insufficient remedy for disclosing confidential information. The award may be comparatively negligible and the legal process to obtain that award can take years. A well-drafted confidentiality agreement can provide for injunctive relief in the event a crew member improperly discloses confidential information. Injunctive relief can be quick and inexpensive, and it results in a court order enjoining further disclosures, the violation of which is contempt of court.
5 Define Standards and Expectations – Many pilots and other crewmembers welcome a confidentiality agreement because it clearly sets forth their client’s expectations and parameters. There are fewer opportunities for miscommunications and misunderstandings as to what information can or cannot be disclosed. And with the significant down time a crew often experiences between flights, clearly identifying the “dos and don’ts” in writing can help manage your relationship. By providing the flight crew with specific guidelines on confidentiality, you help them better serve you.
Whether you have your own flight crew for your aircraft, own a fractional share, or use a turn-key charter service, a confidentiality agreement can help ensure that what happens on board, on the ground, or in the air, stays there. BAA
Artoush Varshosaz is an attorney with the global law firm K&L Gates LLP. He handles commercial matters, including preparing and litigating business agreements for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to High Net Worth Individuals.