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Types of Charter Flights – Differences between Charter, Private and Commercial Flights

back of a charter plane on the tarmac in Colombia

Updated on 05/17/2024

Dear reader,
I would also like to recommend our Colombia travel guide, which provides a perfect overview of the tourist attractions in Colombia. Enjoy reading it!

If you’re seeking personalized, flexible, and comfortable travel, consider a charter flight. This service allows you to rent an aircraft exclusively for your use, whether for business, leisure, or cargo. There are various types of charter flights based on the client, aircraft, operator, and contract. Here are some key features to consider before booking a charter flight.

Types of Charter Flights by Categories

By Client

There are three main types of charter flights based on the client: private, commercial, and affinity.

Private Charter

In private charter flights, a client rents the entire aircraft for exclusive use, granting total control over destination, schedule, and onboard services.

Ideal for:

Private charter flights are favored by celebrities, businessmen, and politicians. Some celebrities who use charter flights are:

  • Beyoncé: The singer owns a Bombardier Challenger 850, a private jet with a capacity for 19 passengers and featuring a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and two bathrooms.
  • Elon Musk: The founder of Tesla and SpaceX owns a Gulfstream G650ER, one of the fastest and most luxurious jets globally, capable of flying up to 14,000 km non-stop.
Pros:
  • Privacy
  • Convenience
  • Luxury
  • Exclusivity
  • Maximum flexibility
  • Customization for travel needs.
Cons:
  • Most expensive type of charter flight.
  • Possible additional fees, taxes, and regulations.

Commercial Charter

A commercial charter flight involves a client purchasing an individual seat on a chartered aircraft.

Ideal for:

Commonly used by tour operators, sports teams, or humanitarian organizations.

Pros:
  • More cost-effective than private charters.
  • May offer more direct routes than scheduled flights.
  • Includes standard airline services and amenities.
Cons:
  • Less flexibility than private charter flights, dependent on operator availability and demand.
  • Limited refund options.
  • Higher risk of cancellation and delays.

Affinity Charter

This occurs when a group of clients with shared interests or affiliations travels together on a chartered aircraft.

Ideal for:

Groups such as clubs, schools, churches, or families.

Pros:
  • Traveling with a group of like-minded individuals.
  • Receiving personalized attention.
Cons:
  • Dependent on group availability and budget.
  • Fewer options than private or commercial charters.
  • Potential conflicts or disagreements within the group.

By Aircraft

There are two main types of charter flights based on the aircraft: passenger and cargo.

Passenger Charter

This is when a client rents a conventional aircraft with passenger seating, either a plane or a helicopter. It’s akin to a regular flight but with added customization and flexibility. Passenger charter flights can offer comfort, safety, entertainment, and catering services. However, they’re also subject to aircraft limitations such as range, speed, capacity, and landing requirements.

Cargo Charter

This is when a client rents a specialized aircraft with cargo space. It’s used to transport various goods like animals, vehicles, equipment, or humanitarian aid.

Cargo charter flights can provide efficient and secure cargo transport, as well as access to remote or restricted destinations. However, they’re pricier than passenger charter flights and require more permits and paperwork.

By Operator

There are two main types of charter flights based on the operator: regular and non-scheduled.

Regular Charter

Regular charters involve a client renting an aircraft from an airline that also operates regular flights. This could be a major airline, a regional carrier, or a low-cost airline.

Regular charter flights benefit from the operator’s experience, infrastructure, and reputation. However, they’re limited by the availability and fleet of the operator, offering less customization and flexibility compared to unscheduled charter flights.

Non-Scheduled Charter

This happens when a client rents an aircraft from an airline that exclusively offers charter flights. This could be a charter airline, a broker, or a private jet company.

Non-scheduled charter flights offer more flexibility, customization, and diverse destinations than regular charter flights.

By Contract

There are two main types of charter flights based on the contract: ad hoc and scheduled.

Bespoke Charter

Bespoke charter involves a client requesting a charter flight on demand, without any fixed scheduling. This offers the utmost flexibility and customization, as the client can choose the destination, schedule, aircraft, and services.

Bespoke charter flights are perfect for private or affinity clients with specific needs and preferences. However, they’re also the most expensive and exclusive type of charter flight, and may not be available at all times or locations.

Scheduled Charter

Scheduled charters are when a client books a charter flight operating on a set frequency and fixed destinations. They’re more cost-effective and regular than bespoke charters, benefiting from economies of scale and planning.

Scheduled charter flights are ideal for commercial clients wanting to travel to popular or seasonal destinations. However, they offer less flexibility and fewer options than bespoke charters, and may not be as convenient or direct as scheduled flights.

Differences between Charter, Private, and Commercial Flights

Charter flights differ from private and commercial flights in several aspects. Here are some key distinctions:

Reservation Process

Charter flights are booked directly with the operator or through an intermediary, while private and commercial flights are booked via platforms or agents.

Charter flights require more negotiation and customization than private and commercial flights, which have more standardized and automated processes.

Customization

Charter flights offer more customization, adjusting destination, schedule, aircraft, and services to client needs, while private and commercial flights have more fixed options.

Private and commercial flights have more fixed and limited options, especially in terms of destination and schedule.

Flexibility

Charter flights offer more flexibility for changes and cancellations, while private and commercial flights have stricter policies.

Private and commercial flights have stricter and more costly policies, especially for changes and cancellations.

Seating Arrangements

Charter flights offer different seating arrangements compared to private and commercial flights, depending on the type of client and aircraft.

  • Private charter flights feature exclusive and spacious seating, whereas commercial charter flights have shared and variable seating.
  • Affinity charter flights offer group and personalized seating, while cargo charter flights either have minimal or no seating.
  • Private and commercial flights typically have standard and uniform seating, usually based on class and fare.

Target Audience

Charter flights cater to different target audiences compared to private and commercial flights, depending on the client type and purpose.

  • Private charter flights target high-end and niche clients like celebrities, businessmen, and politicians.
  • Commercial charter flights target cost-conscious and alternative clients such as tour operators, sports teams, and humanitarian organizations.
  • Affinity charter flights target community-based and special interest clients such as clubs, schools, churches, and families.
  • Cargo charter flights target industrial and logistical clients such as exporters, importers, and aid agencies.
  • Private and commercial flights target general and mass-market clients such as travelers and tourists.

Flight Comparison: Private vs. Public vs. Affinity vs. Cargo

Here is a comparison table summarizing the key features of each type of charter:

FeaturePrivate FlightPublic FlightAffinity FlightCargo Flight
CustomerIndividual or group renting the entire aircraftIndividual purchasing a seat on a chartered aircraftGroup with a shared interest or affiliation traveling togetherIndividual or group renting cargo space
AdvantagesTotal control, privacy, convenience, luxuryCost-effective, direct, alternativeRelated, customized, specialEfficient, secure
DisadvantagesCostlyLess flexible, limited reimbursement, higher risk of cancellationDependency, fewer optionsHigher cost, more permissions, more paperwork
AircraftConventional or specializedConventional
ConventionalSpecialized
OperatorRegular or unscheduledRegular or unscheduledRegular or unscheduledRegular or unscheduled
ContractTailor-made or programmedTailor-made or programmedTailor-made or scheduledCustom or scheduled
SeatsExclusive and spaciousShared and variableGroup and personalizedNone or minimum
PurposeBusiness, leisure or personalTourism or sportsCommunity or educationExport, import or aid
AudienceHigh-end and nicheCost-conscious and alternativeCommunity and special interestsIndustrial and logistics

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About Author

Frank

Frank

Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia. I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia. For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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