Winter 2015 Insight Self-Aggregation Charter Update

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Winter 2015 Insight Self-Aggregation Charter Update 2017-06-13T02:14:07-06:00


One of the hottest topics on the minds of many within the aviation industry, and particularly on-demand charter flight operators and those wishing to use their services, is the concept of “self-aggregation charters.” In reality, self-aggregation charters have been happening for years: an extended family might decide to charter a plane for their annual ski trip or a group of sports fans might decide to charter a jet to the big game, and then they “split the bill” between the individual passengers.

However, self-aggregation charters such as the above examples exist in a largely nebulous regulatory state, and it is unclear how far third-party charter brokers can go in promoting self-aggregation services before running afoul of Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Not per se illegal but also ill-defined in the regulations, Part 135 operators and their potential customers are left seemingly with more questions than answers when it comes to these kinds of charter arrangements.

The most recent guidance on self-aggregation charters comes from the DOT in its September 30, 2013 Notice of Proposed Rule Making entitled “Enhanced Consumer Protections for Charter Air Transportation” (referenced herein as the “NPRM”).  It is important to note that, while the NPRM is the most up-to-date guidance available from DOT on the issue of self-aggregation charters, the NPRM does not, in and of itself, have legal force; it is simply a notice that new, legally binding rules are in the works.

That said, the NPRM is at least some indication of the direction of future regulation concerning self-aggregation charters, though self-aggregation is itself mentioned only briefly in the NPRM.  In the interim, the aviation industry has responded by filling this regulatory vacuum with its own working definitions and best practices for self-aggregation charters, though it remains unclear how much (if any) of this “private regulation” the DOT and FAA will ultimately adopt as law once the rulemaking process is completed.

As It Stands Now

Under existing law

[1], because of the strict rules governing the operation of charter operations, it has historically been very difficult for potential customers to purchase a single seat on charter flights without chartering the entire aircraft. This is due to the requirement that most kinds of charters be on a “single entity charter” basis, i.e. a single charter customer must charter an entire aircraft, and the individual passengers cannot pay for their pro rata portion of the overall cost of the charter.

This is where self-aggregation comes in.  Self-aggregation charters involve situations where a group of individuals comes together and forms a generally acceptable travel itinerary, including time and place of departure and place of arrival, and then pools their money based on each passenger’s pro rata share of the total cost. Once the “single entity” is formed, they will then typically utilize a third-party broker, often the same broker that facilitated formation of the group, to procure single entity charter transportation on the group’s behalf.  For self-aggregation programs that follow this format, (1) the self-aggregator must act as the agent[2] for the group; and (2) certain disclosures must be made to the traveling individuals regarding who will be operating the aircraft, type of aircraft utilized, and the overall service provided in order to keep within the bounds of the current regulations.

Moving Forward

Self-aggregation, if performed within certain strict parameters is entirely acceptable under current DOT and FAA regulations.  However, those self-aggregating groups wishing to aggregate travel, should tread carefully.  Thankfully, the NPRM moves in the right direction.  Once finalized, the proposed rules will allow third-party brokers to procure self-aggregated, single entity charters for their clients.  Similarly, the proposed rules update the regulations to explicitly allow for self-aggregating single entity charters, which will at the very least lend official sanction an already widespread practice in the industry.


[1] One method allowed under existing law is for an operator to submit a Part 380 Public Charter prospectus and gain approval from the DOT.  This is a lengthy process and has several additional requirements for the charter operator.

[2] I.e., there must be an agency relationship between the group and the broker, usually created in a membership agreement. The agreement directs the self aggregation broker to negotiate the time and place of departure, etc., with the charter company on the group’s behalf.


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