As US traffic and demand for private charter has increased exponentially during the pandemic, so too has the volume of calls to the confidential FAA Hotline, which accepts reports concerning aviation regulations, aviation safety, and FAA employees or facilities. Calls to the hotline have increased by some 40%, which has underlined the need for improved education for private charter operators, passengers and airport officials. The FAA said its emphasis was to ensure that operators hold the correct licensing and permits to carry fare paying passengers – and for passengers to be aware of the serious legal implications for insurance and other obligations should these not be in place. Since January 2020, the FAA has levied more than USD13 million in civil penalties and has acted against the operating certificates of three carriers. It has also recently announced action against a further five operators and fines of USD1.23 million in civil penalties.
The message is the same in Europe, especially after the high-profile fatal crash involving Argentine soccer star Emiliano Sala in January 2019. Speaking at the Air Charter Expo (ACE) at London Biggin Hill Airport, the Air Charter Association CEO Glenn Hogben said it would continue to campaign hard to raise awareness of the dangers of grey charter. He divided the law breakers into three groups: “The clueless, the careless, and the criminal. The first two parties either don’t understand that they operate illegally or are not paying attention to the specificities of their flight. This is the group that we try to educate on an ongoing basis.” Combatting the criminal group, meanwhile, required the assistance of aviation authorities to bring prosecutions. “We must remain vigilant,” he said. “This is an ongoing activity, and a global effort.”