Business Aviation Trip Planning Tips: Last-Minute Requests
For business aircraft operators, last-minute international trips are often manageable when working with an experienced 3rd-party provider and assuming that all required information and documentation are available. It’s important to understand the differences among all the options that are available for short-notice requests. Successful last-minute requests require clear and constant communication among all parties involved – operations, flight crew members, passengers, and 3rd-party providers.
Below are Q/As about last-minute requests:
1. Are many business aviation flights last-minute requests?
Short-notice international trip requests are inevitable and occur on a fairly regular basis. This can be the result of many different reasons, including: short-notice business trips, last-minute vacation plans, or changes to existing schedules. While last-minute requests can often be accommodated, success of these requests often depends on many parameters. Some of these parameters are: where you’re operating, dates of operation, overflight and landing permits, Prior Permission Required (PPR), airport slot requirements, and if the type of flight is private non-revenue or charter (non-scheduled commercial). Short-notice requests for areas that require many permits can be challenging, as it’s up to discretion of appropriate Civil Aviation Authorities to approve requests with less than official lead time.
2. What are some of the challenges with last-minute requests?
Last-minute operations may run into issues with aircraft parking, hotels, local transportation, the prospect of dropping off passengers, and options to reposition the aircraft. This adds costs to a trip and may impact crew duty limitations.
Visas may be an issue if they’re required prior to arrival and you’re not able to obtain them beforehand. Local ground handlers may not have an agent at the airport 24 hours a day, and late-night fuel uplifts may not always be possible. Not having updated documentation available or on file with your 3rd-party provider can complicate last-minute requests. Charter flights are, in general, subject to additional restrictions and are more challenging to set up at last minute. It’s never recommended to depart to a location without appropriate approvals for items such as permits, airport slots, and PPRs in place. This can lead to a flight diversion or in certain cases having to return to your point of origin.
3. What are some best practice tips for anticipating last-minute requests?
Improve success of last-minute trip requests by having all aircraft and crew documentation available and up to date. Crew should have multiple-entry visas for countries they travel to frequently, a second passport on hand for short-notice visa processing, vaccinations such as yellow fever, and up-to-date medical certificates. Have appropriate documents such as worldwide insurance up to date, and try to maintain at least six months’ remaining validity on passports.
4. What are best practices in managing last-minute requests?
The key is having effective and constant communication among operations, flight crew members, passengers, and the 3rd-party provider. A last-minute trip request may have limitations, and all involved should be aware of these. It’s best to consult with your 3rd-party provider or a local ground handler whenever you’re dealing with last-minute or unique requests. An experienced 3rd-party provider will make maximum use of its human capital by working with local ground handlers and a global support network of experts. If a passenger has official business with government entities, he or she may be able to go through appropriate compliant government avenues to expedite permits. Be cautious of 3rd-party providers that claim to be able to consistently secure permits faster than the official permit lead time. If any type of extraneous payment (i.e., bribe) is made on your behalf, you could be facing a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violation.
Each trip has different operational parameters that need to be considered and acted upon appropriately to ensure the best practices in managing the last-minute request.
5. Are there certain regions that require more lead time to arrange permits and services?
Some regions – including China, India, and Russia – require additional lead time to arrange permits. Saudi Arabia and China, for example, require a business contact for landing permits, and this involves additional lead time and processes.
Short-notice fuel and service requests may be difficult to accommodate in some areas. Fuel may not be available at certain locations, and fuel quantity limitations may be in place at others during high seasons. Ground handlers, in-flight caterers, and fuelers may not be available when you land at smaller airports in the middle of the night.
6. Are there times of the year that may impact a last-minute request?
Holidays and weekends often impact last-minute trip request permit processing. For example, the weekend in Saudi Arabia is Friday and Saturday.
Typical "busy" seasons in some places, including the Caribbean, can pose challenges.
Flying into an area hosting major events, like the Summer or Winter Games or more recently the Brazilian World Cup, may not even be feasible if not planned well in advance.
7. What Plan "B" options are available for last-minute requests?
When last-minute requests may be faced with limitations, options to consider include delaying the trip or flying around a particular country to avoid the need for an overflight permit. When parking isn’t available, drop-and-go’s are sometimes an alternative. Consider all options realistically. Some countries will not let you deviate from official permit request lead times, while others may put a stop to your application request if you make too many request revisions. These are just some of the many considerations pertaining to complexities that a short-notice trip may be faced with.
8. Are there other issues to consider?
At some locations crew members must have first-class medicals with six months’ remaining validity, and this can be an issue in terms of your last-minute permit application. Stage 2 aircraft are barred from many airports in Europe, and this can also frustrate last-minute trip requests. It’s important to follow regulations as closely as you can to protect yourself from compliance issues.
Be aware that having a pet onboard your aircraft will limit your freedom of movement in some regions as well, and there are locations where a pet may be seized or quarantined upon landing.
While last-minute trip requests are frequently successful, it’s important to keep in mind that not all requests may be possible. Coordinate with your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler to attempt to set up the desired last-minute trip, as they should have a global network of resources to exhaust on your behalf; however, be realistic with expectations, and always have a Plan "B" ready. When the trip isn’t feasible or can’t be scheduled exactly as requested, make sure you get complete and accurate information to help you set expectations with your stakeholders.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next last-minute trip, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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