This is the second in a series of blog posts by David Beach on what questions to ask (and find the answers to) before signing a lease or fractional share/fractional ownership contract on any airplane. Read our first installment of this series here: What to Know About Buying a Challenger 604 Share.
David Beach is the former Senior Vice President of Contracts at NetJets and the current VP of Administration at Jet Advisors.
Fractional Programs, Know the Terms & Conditions (Part 2)
Another common facet to all fractional programs is the aircraft management services agreement. Regardless if the aircraft is a light jet like the Hawker 400XP or a large cabin like the Challenger 604, this is the most important of the numerous agreements that make up the contract package for program providers.
This agreement sets forth the ins & outs of the owner’s or lessee’s duties & payments and the services rendered by the providers along with their duties & responsibilities. Things to pay attention to and understand involve areas of operation, legal requirements (Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and IRS), term, defaults, additional fees, and use restrictions to name just a few. There are more clauses to be aware of and those will be covered in subsequent blogs.Operation
Is the provider you are considering worldwide, North American, or regional? If not worldwide, does the provider’s primary service area cover your needs? What are the requirements or limitations if you need to travel outside of the primary service area (additional charges, ferry fees, increased hourly charges and/or increased notice periods)?
Does the provider cover your flight with one of its aircraft, or are you subcontracted to an unrelated third party (and are you advised of this upfront)?Legal Requirements
Legal requirements can be confusing, especially in the aviation field. Who is considered to be the operator of the aircraft? Does that extend to making sure the maintenance is in accordance with FAA requirements? Who communicates with the FAA if there are issues? Are pilots properly trained and licensed? Who acquires insurance coverage and determines the limits of that coverage? Are there fees to pay to fly the aircraft, then to land the aircraft, and taxes on the fuel you use, or on other fees associated with the management of the aircraft?Term
The term of the agreement can have a big impact on future aircraft value if you purchase the share. A too-short term can restrict your options without the ability to extend it or renew it. Does the term automatically renew/extend, and for what period? Do you have the option to terminate instead of extending?Defaults
What actions can you take or not take to be declared in default? What actions or inactions put the provider in default? If a default occurs, are there cures, and how long do you have to cure? What are your rights if the provider defaults?Additional Fees
If the provider has to modify the aircraft to comply with regulations or upgrades, or refurbishes the aircraft, who pays for it? If the provider increases crew salaries, is that cost passed on to you? Domestic or international landing fees, segment fees, airspace fees, communication fees, and concierge fees - are they bundled into the hourly flight charge and/or the monthly management fee, or passed on to you as incurred? If they are passed on as incurred, are they passed through at cost or with an administrative fee tacked on?Use Restrictions
Use restrictions are not limited to the provider’s primary service area; most providers have certain limitations on high-demand days, which are usually called peak period days. On peak period days, your cost per hour may increase, you will have a longer notice period, and the likelihood of a delay or acceleration to your requested departure time increases. Some programs, depending on your contract, may further restrict your use on these peak period days.
These are a few of the areas you need to know about, but there are more to come…