Public Charter Flights

Charter flights can provide excellent value, and they often operate nonstop in markets where scheduled flights would be less direct. In addition, many charters don't have all of the restrictions of scheduled-service discount fares, e.g. advance-purchase, stay over a Saturday night, stay no more than 30 days, etc. Finally, most charter fares aren't "capacity-controlled" like scheduled-service discount fares; every seat on the airplane is usually available at the advertised fare. "Public Charters" can be purchased from a tour operator, a travel agent, or sometimes directly from the airline.

If your flight has been arranged by a club or other organization for its members, it may be what is called an "affinity" charter flight. These charters generally do not carry the consumer protection provisions of Public Charters. Be sure you know what kind of charter flight you are purchasing.


A Public Charter may include only the flights, or it may be sold as a complete package, including hotels, guided tours, and ground transportation. Either way, your rights are spelled out in an "operator/participant contract" that you have with the charter operator. The operator or your travel agent should give you a contract to sign at the time you purchase your trip. Read it before you pay any money.

The Department of Transportation requires charter operators to disclose certain information in their contract about the restrictions that they impose and also rights that you have under our rules:

If your charter operator notifies you of a major change before departure, you get a full refund if you decide to cancel. If you choose not to cancel, the operator is not required to make partial refunds. However, if you don’t find out about a change until after your trip has begun, you can reject the changed flight or hotel, make and pay for your own alternative plans, and insist on a refund for the original component when you get home. If you decide to accept a change in date or city, keep in mind the effect it will have on any connecting scheduled-service arrangements you may have made, particularly if your scheduled-service fare restricts your ability to make changes.

If your charter is late returning and causes you to miss a scheduled connecting flight back to your home, you have to pay your own expenses while you wait for the next connection. You may also have to pay a higher fare to switch to another scheduled-service flight if you were ticketed at a discount fare. Bottom line: leave plenty of connecting time between charter and scheduled flights when making your arrangements.

Your baggage can’t be checked through from a scheduled flight to a charter, and vice-versa. You have to claim your baggage and re-check it yourself. When planning a charter, allow plenty of time to check in at the airport from which your charter leaves, or from which you have a connecting flight. On international trips, remember that you may encounter delays in Customs.

Charters offer nonstop flights for an affordable price. They can be a wise travel investment if you can be flexible in your travel plans. Just be sure you know the conditions for the trip you're buying before you pay for it.

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(Last Updated 07/15/2002)