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Charter Flight Websites / Services? 1020

Posted by Cliff
from the alternative-travel-desperately-needed dept.
X86Daddy asks: "TSA's latest announcement banning all fluids (toothpaste even) from carry-on luggage is the icing on a very sour cake. Many passengers are growing tired of the invasive security screenings, the increasing prices, lost and stolen luggage, and the decreasing quality of service with commercial flights in the United States. However, given the geographical size of this country and the lack of rail options, flight remains the only practical method of travel for most destinations. Can anyone suggest alternative flight services? Are there websites that connect Cessna or other small scale air charter services with interested passengers? I've found CharterX and CharterHub but they seem more geared toward executives looking for jets. Does anyone have experience traveling this way? Is the price point a lot higher, making this a dumb idea (just resign myself to buying toiletries at every destination and prepare for the mandatory anal probes in '07)?"
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Charter Flight Websites / Services?

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  • Pilot yourself (Score:5, Informative)

    by samkass (174571) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:40PM (#15885981) Homepage Journal
    Getting your own pilot's license is a bit of work but easily do-able on your average geek's salary. Then go in on a Cessna with a few friends or join a flying rental club and you've got something that can do the shorter hops easily. It won't be cheaper, but it's not as insanely expensive as most think, and no one will search you or even ask you where you're going (unless you fly through class B or C airspace, and then only in general terms).

    Alternately, in a couple years the Very Light Jet (VLJ) [wikipedia.org] market is supposed to take off and offer the kind of services you suggest on a level that an upper-middle-class American can afford, but not yet. Watch Eclipse [eclipseaviation.com], Honda [honda.com], and the others roll out their aircraft and look for the small carriers to use'em.

  • Re:Or... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:41PM (#15885982)
    For short business trips, few days length, the idea is to *not* check
    a bag at all, ie everything goes in the carry-on bag.
  • ObHeinlein (Score:3, Informative)

    by Amazing Quantum Man (458715) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:43PM (#15886001) Homepage
    In a mature society, "civil servant" is semantically equal to "civil master." --Lazarus Long
  • by Dekortage (697532) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:47PM (#15886019) Homepage

    So the article says they will make an exception for "prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger's ticket". Because we know that no terrorist would be able to forge those labels, right?

    On the flip side, the U.S. Department of Transportation is completely ignoring the railway [narprail.org] as an answer to our nation's transportation problems.

  • Re:Or... (Score:2, Informative)

    by gonk (20202) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:10PM (#15886149) Homepage
    An hour on each of the trip? Please, get real. I fly often, and I always check my bags. I hate carrying them around the airport, and very rarely does it take me more than a few minutes to collect them.

    robert
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:17PM (#15886179)
    US airports don't take fingerprints

    Really? [google.com]
  • Re:Pilot yourself (Score:5, Informative)

    by thogard (43403) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:18PM (#15886196) Homepage
    I used to fly a piper turbo arrow out of St Louis. I had to move a server from NYC to St Louis. My coworker and I both left at the same time. He flew commercial and I flew the arrow. He arrived at the NYC air port, picked up a rental car and got to the small airport to pick me up just about the time I was on final approach. Not bad for a flight close to 1/2 way across the country. I didn't have any security problem, I had plenty of leg room and no one was worried about what was in my bag. My flight cost less than his too.

    A pilots license isn't that hard to get if you fly every week.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:25PM (#15886234)
    The Piper Cherokee (and most [all?] light, civilian aircraft) have fuel consumption measured in gallons/hour. The newest Pipers consume about 10 gal/hr and a range of about 750 miles. Not bad.
  • by Starker_Kull (896770) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:33PM (#15886285)
    Actually, while turboprops make economic sense for short flights, and were thus extensively used to feed hubs for majors, passenger surveys indicated that passengers HATED them. Something about a prop on a airplane scares the crap out of them (despite the fact that you add a bunch more blades and shroud it in a teflon shell and *presto!* you have a modern high-bypass turbofan). So, the majors bought out feeder carriers in the late 90's for control, and then replaced the turboprop planes with RJ's (Embraer 145's and Canadairs), since that what people wanted to see associated with the major airline logo. Now, with fuel becoming the number one expense for airlines nowadays, turboprops make more sense despite passenger "nervousness". They will be reintroduced in time...
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:37PM (#15886315)

    If you've been paying attention the past few years, the FAA and the major airlines seem hellbent on removing general aviation from the US altogether (closing non-airline airports, insisting on implementing per request fees for ATC, trying to ground all aircraft built before the last few decades. And don't get me started on the stupidity of every major city wanting a Washington D.C. style Air Defense Identificaton Zone). I suspect having nothing flying anywhere near the ground except governemnt controled drones would suit them just fine.

    You clearly aren't aware of AOPA's extensive, successful lobbying efforts. They've been a constant voice against GA (General Aviation) paranoia (ie "someone's going to steal a Cessna and smash it into a Nu-cle-ar power plant!") in the Federal and local government. When the FAA abritrarily revoked the license of the widely loved Bob Hoover because he hit the maximum age, AOPA fought his case. They made a HUGE ruckus when Mayor Daley bulldozed Meigs Field illegally for a park (Daley literally had bulldozers come in during the middle of the night and start tearing up asphalt, when several groups challenged the plans in court.) They've been a powerful, strong voice to Congress (and the press) regarding the incredibly frightening "standard operating procedures" for when pilots stray into restricted airspace.

    Most of the time, controllers don't actually TELL pilots they've done so- or the pilot has switched over to the next control jurisdiction (and when you do so, you tell the controller you were with that you're leaving the frequency- so they SHOULD be able to 'know' 'where' you are.) Most of the time, either nobody notices or cares, or the pilot gets an "interview" with a friendly local FAA or Homeland InSecurity rep when he lands.

    However, all too often, the first sign a pilot has strayed into restricted airspace is when a blackhawk helicopter pops down next to them, or they get buzzed by a fighter jet. Radio problems are a recurring theme in the encounters- military aircraft with semi-working civilian-band radios, or military pilots not knowing what frequencies the pilot is on/should be on.) You can't really lean out the window and say "hey, officer, what's the problem?", and GA pilots are faced with a terrible conundrum- clearly someone is pissed, but what to do? Change flightpath, possibly becoming more of a threat? Keep going straight, inadvertently continuing towards whatever everyone is hot and bothered about, and get shot down once they cross some 'line in the sand'? Nevermind that when you've got a guy with a very big machinegun trained on you, flying the plane suddenly becomes the least of your worries, and that's VERY dangerous...

    Then there's the media frenzy and news helicopters covering you getting taken down on the tarmac by a SWAT team, getting "interviewed" by half a dozen government agencies over a simple human error, possible criminal charges, your pilot's license suspended, your plane (or someone else's plane- many times they are rentals) getting impounded, etc.

    If you're sitting there saying "stupid pilots should know not to fly into restricted airspace", keep in mind that the number of restricted spaces EXPLODED in the last few years because of You Know When...and these spaces are frequently around insignificant things like, say, a major grain processing plant that Homeland Insecurity classified as "critical infrastructure". Things that are NOT marked on charts. They're also frequently date/time specific (ie, some big concert is going on somewhere, and DoHiS issues a restriction just for the event. There are a half dozen KINDS of restricted airspaces, with all sorts of varying altitude limits and such.

  • by gettingbraver (987276) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:48PM (#15886387)
    WTF? [chron.com]
    Mothers tasted baby food in front of airport security guards to prove it contained no liquid explosives.
    And for human interest. [forbes.com]
    At Dulles, one passenger fished a bottle of Tequila from a carry-on bag. It joined the rest of the newly classified contraband in a trash container.
  • by radish (98371) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @11:12PM (#15886505) Homepage
    Wow. Are you really that ignorant?

    Let's review what we know: Terrorists are 1) usually middle eastern

    Wrong [wikipedia.org]

    2) always Muslim

    Wrong [wikipedia.org]

    3) aged 15-35.

    Wrong again [wikipedia.org]

    That's strike three, you're out. Thanks for playing!

    We should give every adult who boards a plane a gun, that way the first terrorist to stand up and yell "allah ackbar" would get his brains splattered on the cabin ceiling and that would be the end of that.

    Your "idea" (it's not even your idea, I've heard other morons spouting it before) is absurd. 400 cramped people, too much heat, screaming kids, travel stress & alcohol does not equal a sensible environment in which to introduce firearms.

    (and despite what Penn and Teller's BullS*$T says, there is actually less crime in texas and that's why)

    And yet again, Wrong [disastercenter.com]. From the linked:

    In the year 2000 Texas had an estimated population of 20,851,820 which ranked the state 2nd in population. For that year the State of Texas had a total Crime Index of 4,955.5 reported incidents per 100,000 people. This ranked the state as having the 8th highest total Crime Index. For Violent Crime Texas had a reported incident rate of 545.1 per 100,000 people. This ranked the state as having the 13th highest occurrence for Violent Crime among the states. For crimes against Property, the state had a reported incident rate of 4,410.4 per 100,000 people, which ranked as the state 10th highest.

    Texas is, statistically, one of the more dangerous states. It seems they are also lacking an education system.
  • Re:Pilot yourself (Score:5, Informative)

    by samkass (174571) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @11:35PM (#15886620) Homepage Journal
    Searching on "air taxi" may turn up more palatable rates than "charter". Air taxis generally charge per seat-mile, while charter tend to charge for the pilot and planes hours and fuel consumed. For a lot of "semi-scheduled" service, the taxi construct works better for the flier, and depending on the airport's setup can sometimes still offer less security hassles.
  • by Detritus (11846) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:29AM (#15886869) Homepage
    I think they're worried about binary explosives, which aren't dangerous until you mix the two components. Even then, you need a blasting cap to trigger an explosion.
  • by operagost (62405) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:30AM (#15886871) Homepage Journal
    These attacks could likley have been caused BY the war on terror though.

    Yes, because there certainly never was a terrorist attack or attempt on U.S. citizens before 2001.

    No one ever bombed the USS Cole in Yemen, no one bombed the WTC in 1993, the American embassy in Iran was never seized by Islamic fundamentalists, the American Embassy and marine barracks in Beirut were never bombed, William Buckley was never murdered by radicals in Beirut, the Achille Lauro was never hijacked and a handicapped man thrown overboard, a Berlin disco was never bombed, TWA flight 840 was never bombed... you get the idea.

  • Charter rates (Score:3, Informative)

    by Starker_Kull (896770) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:45AM (#15886935)
    It is pretty unlikely that charter companies will be able to compete with major airlines for the low cost end of things, more due to physics than business. Turbofan engines tend to be more efficent the larger they are, and the LARGEST aircraft tend to be the most efficent per seat mile, with an execption being for ultra-hi bypass jets (otherwise known as turboprops) in the 50 seat (give or take 20) category. For illustration, the cost per seat-mile for various aircraft is about (on average) $0.06/seat-mile in 777's (about 350 seats), $0.09/seat-mile in 737's (about 130 seats), and about $0.14/seat-mile in EMB-145's (50 seats). Of this, usually 30 - 50 % is fuel costs. When you get to charter size aircraft, the numbers get even worse. Look at a typical charter outfit: http://www.wisconsinaviation.com/charter/intro.htm l [wisconsinaviation.com] - let's do some basic math on the numbers listed there to get an idea of seat mile costs - I'll neglect anything less than a turboprop, because of their far slower speed and ability to handle weather. Based on their numbers, here are the costs per seat-mile, only taking into account aircraft rental and fuel - i.e. ignoring fees, repo flights, and pilot expenses.

    Cessna 340: 0.66
    Piper Navajo 0.41
    Cessna 414 0.51
    King Air 0.40
    Cessna Conquest II 0.36
    Cessna Citation 500 0.59
    Cessna Citation I 0.72
    Cessna Citation S/II 0.53

    All these, even the cheapest, is more than TRIPLE the airliners. And I also made the calculation assuming that every seat was taken, an unlikely assumption given than the person was interested in charter (i.e. non regularly scheduled) ops. It's just not a viable idea. Sadly, from a long-term cost and energy consumption standpoint, rail beats air hands down for most overland travel. Oceans still give planes somewhere worthwhile to fly over.... :)

  • Taliban regime (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:15AM (#15887066)
    Presumably, "fascism" could describe one sort of (hypothetical?) Islamic state, perhaps theoretically the one envisioned by these terrorists.


    Not only was it hypothetical, it existed: The Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

    Thanks to the Taliban, the Buddhas of Bamiyan, statues that were 1,500 years old and stood 120 feet tall, were blasted out of the mountain cliff from which they were carved because they were "un-Islamic". From the Wikipedia article, "On March 6, the London Times quoted Mullah Mohammed Omar as stating, 'Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to God that we have destroyed them.' " Refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyan [wikipedia.org].

    Of course, that is just one of the outrageous acts commited by the Taliban during its terrorizing reign of the Afghanistan, such as beating women for not wearing burkhas, denying women education, executing homosexuals, executing men who didn't wear their beards to the correct length and style, forbidding children from flying kites, etc., etc. Reminiscent of the Nazi regime, which required Jews to wear the Star of David, the Taliban required Hindus to wear a visible patch signifying their religion http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2001-05-22-tali banids.htm [usatoday.com]

    See also "Islamofacism" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamofascism_(epithe t) [wikipedia.org]
  • by Starker_Kull (896770) on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:24AM (#15887098)
    Smaller, lighter, more fuel-efficient jets - sorry, but smaller, lighter jets are more INEFFICENT on a cost per pax-mile basis. See my post: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=193740&cid=158 86935 [slashdot.org] If smaller jets were more efficent, the airlines would be buying them in droves. But the general jist of your argument is quite valid. The term you were getting near is "Security Theatre" - the appearance of security vs. the actual thing. Bruce Schnier popularized the phrase. http://www.schneier.com/ [schneier.com]
  • by serenarae (154753) on Friday August 11, 2006 @02:26AM (#15887283) Journal
    The reason we have a lack of rail options is mostly due to the fact that our government, or better yet our president is simply not interested in providing tax dollars to fund such a project. Every other rail system in the world (well, a majority of the great ones) are subsidized by the countrie's governments in which they reside. I recall not to long ago, Dubya (congress stopped him) was trying to eliminate ALL government funding to Amtrak. Amtrak NEEDS that funding to survive, even if that money they get is just going to making rail repairs.

    I don't think most people realize how much upkeep the railroad takes, and modernizing our crumbling rail infrastructure will not only take time... but some serious investment from the government to make it possible.

    Of course, I am biased... because I hate planes and think trains are sexxxy ;)
  • by Queuetue (156269) <.moc.kitsatnap. .ta. .ttocs.> on Friday August 11, 2006 @04:48AM (#15887656) Homepage
    I run it, so this could be spam, but http://www.rsvpair.com/ [rsvpair.com] is exactly what you requested - a free directory that lets people who want to fly charter find operators, give feedback and see prices, both for large executive jets, turboprops, and smaller props like you were requesting here.
  • by gpuk (712102) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:13AM (#15887723) Homepage
    I work for an air charter agency in the UK but we operate globaly and put a number of domestic US charters together for our American clients.

    Currently, the cost per person of chartering an aircraft is very roughly in line with your high-end business class fare on a scheduled carrier. As an example, a return flight from Port Columbus Intl., Columbus (OH) to Orlando International, Orlando (FL) would cost apprx. USD $1,840 per person in a King Air 200 (based on 7 passengers travelling) and USD $2,660 per person in a Citation II jet (based on 8 travelling).

    However, the general aviation world is gearing up for what many people predict to be the dawn of a new age in aircraft charter, the introduction of the VLJ or 'Very Light Jet'. These new style jets are due to come in to service at the end of this year and they have been designed from the ground up for the specific role of air taxi. They are massively more efficient than existing aircraft in their class (4 to 5 seater light jets) and take advantage of all the advancements in material sciences, airframe design and fuels consumption that have been achieved over the last decade or so. It is predicted that these VLJs will open up the air charter market to the middle classes and SMEs. You will no longer need to be a high net worth individual or work for a Fortune 500 in order to afford to regularly fly in them. For more information, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Very_Light_Jet/ [wikipedia.org]. Cessna, Embraer, Eclipse and even Honda are all entering this market.

    By the end of 2007 air charter in the US should be a lot more viable for people who are fed up with airlines and major airports.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday August 11, 2006 @09:10AM (#15888409) Homepage
    Oh crap all you guys will do is torch the whitehouse and hang around until either a good hockey game is on back home or you run out of beer.

    Just like last time.... This time write "canada rules" in english and not french... Our president is not smart enough to read french.

  • by PatSand (642139) on Friday August 11, 2006 @09:51AM (#15888652) Journal
    Sorry, but the vast majority (super-super-majority, over 95%) of the threads are one of these rants:

    1. GW Bush
    2. TSA
    3. Airlines

    Very little content on answering the poster's question: alternative airline travel options and cost-benefits analysis. Quick suggestion on these rants:

    1. Work to get GW and the Republican majority out of office (we are still notionally a democracy). Primaries and elections are coming up--VOTE. Don't just whine. Go work for a candidate-they need IT people!
    2. Ditto about TSA- GW created it from 21 agencies, and threw in FEMA to boot-remember Katrina this November.
    3. Vote with your dollars-if one airline screws you over, check for nearby airports using competitors (I have Southwest now in my area of PA that has broken the monopoly USAir had on air travel-prices are down, service has improved). You'd be surprised how many airports are nearby-within an hour's driving distance.

    Enough ranting...it's rather addictive; I think most Americans are getting fed up with the current regime...gotta stop....must remove hands from keyboard...take coffeee......

    Okay...better now...

    I'm thinking about that myself (but I rarely travel by plane, mostly by train or car within 200 miles of my house) and will investigate it a bit further but my take on it is:

    1. Fractional ownership is not cheap...at least for me...$100k and up per year
    2. Can use smaller airports for domestic flights...less time in security and most smaller airports have car rental agencies right at the airport or serve them regularly.
    3. International flights generally use the same airports as commercial, smaller planes (20-30 passenger) with long range flight capabilities, quicker security (same level, but since you pay more and are more "noticed", less incentive to be a terrorist).
    If you are with a large corporation, check and see if they have their own fleet or fractional ownership. You might be able to hitch a ride with an exec. Might want to suggest that to company as way to save cost/time/amortize expense to shareholders (ooohhh! financial talk)/etc. Also keep in mind for medical emergencies or family emergencies, companies might make private jets available to employees or family members for evacuation/airlift use--great for goodwill.

    On the flip side of fractional ownership:
    1. With cost-cuttings going on today, most companies won't do this
    2. If you got money, you get special treatment; otherwise, move along with the cattle...
    3.Some companies restrict it only to senior executives as a matter of policy.

    Hope this helps...

  • Re:Or... (Score:3, Informative)

    by portnoy (16520) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:12AM (#15889227) Homepage
    The last flight I took was from South Africa to Boston, with a few hours layover in Amsterdam. The thought of flying for two days without toothpaste leaves a pasty film in my mouth.
  • by mockchoi (678525) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:53AM (#15889543)
    This stuff is very dangerous, and people get busted ALL of the time because they don't have a good understanding of commercial operations and flying for hire, and what 'holding out' is. To share expenses on a flight, the passengers and the pilots have to have a common purpose, and that purpose can't be 'I want to go to such-and-such a place, can you take me? We'll split the cost of the flight.' The pilot's selling a ticket in this case (at a discounted price.)

    Another problem people run into is not realizing that commercial flying is commercial flying, whether or not the pilot is being paid. This can go beyond FAA, the NTSB can throw people in jail for this. Be careful!

    The format of this page makes my soul hurt, but it is good information, and Phillip Kolczynski is a well-respected aviation lawyer. Pay particular attention to 'the fifth trap' he mentions.

    http://www.aviationlawcorp.com/content/traps.html# comporhire [aviationlawcorp.com]

    Hope this helps.
  • by philten (882348) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:59AM (#15889582)
    As a small aircraft pilot I can tell you that flying in small planes is not economic. The wet fee (gas, insurance, aircraft) for a single engine aircraft is usually upwards of $80/hour. This of course does not include a pilot, which will cost even more (probably around $40/hour). Most small aircraft have a cruising airspeed of around 120 kts/hour, which means that traveling 300 miles would cost upwards of $240 and take around 2 hours. High performance and multi engine aircraft can travel much faster but also are much more expensive to rent. The other problem is that small aircraft are affected much more by the weather. While large jets can navigate above storms, most small aircraft cannot, and must either navigate around the storm or land. Corporate jets (like Lear and Gulf) cost ridiculous amounts of money, which is why the only people using them are those who are amazingly rich. Needless to say, there are very few Lears out there for charter flights. Unfortunately, this means that the only practical method of air travel is through the large airlines.
  • by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:28PM (#15889776) Homepage
    What's the fuel efficiency of these things? With only 1 passenger, it sounds like the passenger-miles-per-gallon efficiency would be abysmal. This isn't an environmentally viable option for tons of people to take up, unless you're extrenely selfish and don't care about spewing pollutants into the atmosphere.

    Do some research before condemning them. You'll find that some light aircraft are actually more fuel efficient than cars or trucks, even when only occupied by a single person (the pilot). For example, the 2-seater Diamond Eclipse DA20 cruises at 138 knots, while burning 5.5 gallons per hour. That's almost 160 (statute) miles on 5.5 gallons of fuel, or 29 miles per gallon. Factor in that you're not burning any fuel sitting at stoplights or crawling along in traffic, and you'll realize that even from an environmental point of view, flying can be very efficient.
  • by iocat (572367) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:49PM (#15889907) Homepage Journal
    2000 - 3000 people don't die a day on US roads. In 2004, the last year for which records can be found in two seconds on Google, 42,800 people died on US highways, a rate of 117.26 a day.

    So, in fact, getting on a plane the day terrorists plan on blowing up 10 airliners is actually more dangerous than driving.

    And it there is an important difference between terrorist today and in days past. In the 1970s and 1980s terrorists took over planes, flew them to Beruit, hassled the passengers, maybe killed one or two, and eventually let everyone off the plane. An enourmous pain in the ass, especially to the people who died, but not world shaking. That expectation is exactly why most of the people on the 9/11 flights just hung out -- they didn't expect the terrorists to destroy the planes with them on them. More people died on 9/11 than in every previous episode of plane-based terrorist combined.

    Finally, it was this bad during the cold war. Much worse in fact. To me the main difference is that the threat from people trying to destroy our civilization today is actually much worse than the actual threat from the Russians was.

    That all said, The TSA's cargo-cult security style "oh, someone once did something bad with X, all X must be bad," is obviously super stupid. An El Al style detailed profiling of anyone wishing to fly would be significantly more secure, but probably not ameliorate the fears of people who a) believe all security methods are just the government "trying to take away their freedom," and b) then vote for people in favor of strong gun control.

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