The U.S. Transportation Department has clarified the now two-year-old rules covering disclosures required by private jet charter brokers. The response to an inquiry by the National Business Aviation Association underscores consumer rights. At the same time, it affirms brokers are allowed to contract with consumers before securing an operator.
The clarification is specific to charter contracts signed before the broker has secured an operator to perform the flight. The DOT requires the broker to inform the customer promptly once an operator is secured to perform your trip.
After operator disclosure, the DOT notes, “[A]ir charter brokers must provide the charterer with the opportunity to cancel the contract for charter air transportation, including any services in connection with such contract, and receive a full refund of any monies paid for the charter air transportation and services.”
This usurps any cancellation penalties in your charter contract.
The DOT also affirmed that brokers could contract with consumers before securing an operator. In other words, you and your broker can agree to a price. Your broker would then source the aircraft and try to make a margin. However, you would then have the right to cancel and get 100% of your monies back.
Lawyers for the NBAA had addressed conflicting language in the rule. “Since (the rule) requires a broker to provide the name of the operator prior to contracting with the customer, NBAA members questioned if a broker could contract with the customer before finding the operator, and disclose the direct air carrier’s identity upon receiving that information,” according to an update on the trade group’s website.
The DOT responded, “For such situations, consistent with the regulation, air charter brokers must disclose to the charterer the identity of the direct air carrier within a reasonable time after the information becomes available, and must provide an adequate opportunity for the charterer to accept the additional information or to cancel the charter contract, including any services in connection with such contract, and receive a full refund of any monies paid for the charter air transportation and services.”
According to the terms of one major broker that offers online bookings, “This flight is confirmed. Upon expiration of the Cancellation Window, this flight CANNOT BE CANCELLED or exchanged, except as required by law.”
The NBAA noted, “Although this DOT legal opinion is not as formal in presentation as an FAA legal interpretation, (the attorneys engaged by NBAA) said the opinion carries similar weight and indicates enforcement action would not be taken in the above circumstance.”