February 2007

Department of Transportation Proposal Regarding Charter Operations

Holland & Knight Newsletter
Jonathan M. Epstein | Judy R. Nemsick

As a result of the same accidents that triggered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue new guidance on operational control of Part 135 charter operators, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently issued a proposal to require certain information be provided to charter customers about which entity is actually conducting a particular flight.

The Proposal

The DOT, which grants economic authority to air carriers, has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) requesting comment on questions concerning recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board that at the time of contracting, on-demand air taxis provide their customers with the following:

  • the name of the company with operational control of the flight
  • any “doing business as” names contained in such company’s Operational Specifications
  • the name of the aircraft owner
  • the name of any broker involved in arranging the flight

In addition, customers should be updated as to any changes in the foregoing information. The DOT considers adequate ownership and operator information essential for consumers to be afforded the opportunity to make informed decisions about their flight choices.

Current DOT Restrictions

The DOT already regulates charter management arrangements involving the use of “doing business as” or where the owner takes an active role in marketing, booking, or billing and collecting from charter customers. In particular, certain activities may be considered “deceptive trade practices” or acting as an indirect air carrier without proper authority. The DOT Office of Aviation Enforcement Proceedings has actively investigated and fined companies that violate these rules, and apparently authored this proposal.

The DOT is accepting comments on the proposal questions until March 27, 2007. For procedural reasons it will probably be many months before regulations are enacted. Nevertheless, charter operators and owners should be aware of the increased focus of both the DOT and FAA on these issues.

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