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Licensed to Shill

A long-awaited family outing found me on a cruise ship together with members of the American Association of Aesthetic Surgeons, on board for a seminar.

Upon discovering that bodies in flight rather than in surgery are my area of expertise, the doctors proceeded to expound on how the Internet and smartphone apps doubtless had changed the economics for business jet charter fliers.

“The Internet is perfect to connect travelers with aircraft,” one doctor said excitedly. “Say there’s an aircraft flying home empty from Miami to LA. You should be able to charter that pretty cheaply – maybe even buy just a seat or two – if someone has already paid to have it fly out!”

“So, if you found a charter company offering a trip online at the right price – maybe filling an empty leg – you’d buy it using an app?” I asked.

“You bet!”

“Aren’t you concerned about safety?”

“Why should I be? They’re all licensed by the FAA, right?”

That reminded me of the quote attributed to “Gus” Grissom, one of the seven original Mercury astronauts, when asked how he felt sitting in the capsule just before launch: “How would you feel, sitting on top of 50,000 parts, knowing that each had been awarded to the lowest bidder?” In front of me was a highly-educated professional who didn’t seem to share Grissom’s concern.

“So,” I said, “if there were such a website for aesthetic surgeons, and someone posted a message saying: ‘I had a rhinoplasty scheduled for Thursday 8-11 AM who canceled. I am available for any surgical procedure of three hours or less at a 25% discount,’ that would be a good way to save a buck on a nose job or facelift, right?”

The good doctor was aghast. “Of course not!” was the emphatic response. “Before you pick a surgeon, you need to do a lot of research.”

“Why? They’re all licensed, aren’t they?” I countered.

The doctor grew quiet. “I see your point,” he said. Deflated, he excused himself, and I was left alone with my thoughts – and concerns.

Every driver on the highway presumably has a license, but that doesn’t mean I’d ride with just any one of them. Being certificated by the FAA is the starting point for charter due diligence. The scariest part of this conversation was that the doctor’s opinions probably are shared by too many charter users and prospects.

Business aviation’s current growth surge has attracted a plethora of charter brokers from fields outside aviation. The relative anonymity of the Internet and smartphone apps enables them to pretend to have experience and expertise they don’t possess – and don’t care to obtain. When it comes to business jet charter, it is definitely “Caveat Emptor.”

Several excellent third-party auditing firms, such as ARGUS, as well as many consulting firms, help ensure that users select a qualified operator. But there are no “parental controls” to protect folks like the doctor, who assume safety – perhaps erroneously – while looking for a good deal. BAA

Gil Wolin
Gil Wolin is Publisher of Business Aviation Advisor magazine. A frequent speaker at national and regional events, Mr. Wolin is a member of the National Business Aviation Association, the Massachusetts Airport Management Association, and Business Aviation Professionals of New England. He currently serves on the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Presidential Advisory Board. He is a past director of the National Air Transportation Association, and a past member of the Corporate Angel Network Advisory Board.

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