The British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) has called for changes to the law to enable a stricter enforcement of deterrents for illegal charter.
Speaking at the Air Charter Expo conference at Biggin Hill Airport BBGA chair Aoife O’Sullivan complained that fines currently being handed out are “pointless and they are not being enforced.”
“We need a change in the law,” said O’Sullivan. “The [flight] cost-sharing concept is being openly flouted and we need a change to the [UK] Air Navigation Order to put a stop to this.”
Panellists at the conference acknowledged that abuses are increasing – partly facilitated by online charter platforms and abuses of dry-lease arrangements – and that regulatory agencies generally have inadequate resources to police illegal charter.
Dave Edwards, CEO of the Air Charter Association, complained that there were only 14 successful illegal charter prosecutions and fines between 2005 and 2016, amounting to total fines of just £14,950.
“That’s barely 10 weeks’ pay for a training captain,” he said. “One person was prosecuted for seven offences over this period, resulting in just £6,500 in fines. That’s clearly not a deterrent.”
James Moreton from insurance broker Hayward Aviation said that end users need to be more aware that illegal charters can invalidate insurance coverage, adding that insurance companies could do more to raise awareness about the resulting liability issues.
Ryan Waguespack, v-p of aircraft management, charter services, and MROs at the U.S. National Air Transportation Association, said that fines in the U.S. were higher for illegal charter offences, citing one example of a pending $17 million penalty against an operator in South Carolina.