Seems you can’t walk through a busy airline terminal without seeing at least one “Delayed for Maintenance” notice on a boarding gate sign. It happens. Planes are incredibly complex machines that have to be in near-perfect working conditions before they can take off (each plane has a Minimum Equipment List, MEL, that allows for certain items to be inoperative, yet still allow the plane to fly). The airlines typically stock replacement parts at all major cities, along with having the mechanics on-call to make the repair. Unless the item is not at base, or the repair will take an extended period of time, the flight will be delayed, but will eventually take off.
Private and charter jets are equal in their complexity. Sadly, they too, break down. When a plane is grounded it’s called, oh so cleverly, an “aircraft on ground”, or, AOG. They are also simply referred to “mechanicals”. On more than one occasion, I have taxied out and before take off (and even once during the takeoff roll – ouch), a warning light has come on that screams, “You cannot take this plane off!” A couple times I was able to taxi back and switch to a replacement plane, and, a couple times the client has had to wait for a replacement plane to fly in, or, be sourced from another operator at the same airport. This creates an obnoxious delay for the passengers, which can mean a missed meeting or event.
When a charter plane breaks down, and there is no simple or timely repair available, the customer has to find another plane. If a broker was involved, the customer must reach out to the broker to find an alternative, if possible (This was the case in the article, “The Tire’s a Little Low, So What?”). Remember, payments to charter operators must be made up front, which could delay the new flight. At the point of breakdown, the customer only has to pay for any flight portions of the trip that were made, if any, plus, the new legs with the new operator. Unfortunately, the newly acquired lift will most-likely come at a price that is higher than the originally-negotiated trip.
Fractionals and jet card companies will normally guarantee a replacement plane, at “no extra cost”. The reality is, these operators bake this scenario in to their very high hourly rates. In other words, you are indeed paying for it, and then some.
So here’s the rub: breakdowns happen, yet they are rare-ish (one out of every 60 trips, maybe?). If you take 12 trips a year, you may have a mechanical every five years. If you use a broker, that flying could cost, say for example, $200,000, and if you fly with a fractional or jet card company, it could cost $350,000. That would be a $150,000, or, 43%, premium to have a slightly better chance of getting a replacement craft. That’s $750,000 over five years. To a lot of folks, those are substantial dollars.